Monday, July 30, 2007

What I’ve learned about weight

I’m a tiny person. Standing only 5’2”, I’ve got tiny bones and tiny hands and tiny feet. So my weight always seemed tiny as well, even as it inched up the scale. The number itself never seemed that bad. I’d read about overweight people, and their number was always way larger than mine. Of course, I didn’t take into account they were much taller.

Also, as I got older, it was easy to think, well, one just gets heavier as one ages. My dress size wasn’t all that bad, really. I gradually got used to not being able to do physically what I could do when I was younger, and not looking good in the same kind of clothes I had before. Who really needs to show their upper arms anyway?

So, what was it that finally got my attention? I think it was getting breathless when walking up a short flight of stairs. Or how my ankles would swell up if I sat too long. Or how poorly I was sleeping. Something was out of whack.

It’s my habit to approach physical problems initially with prayer. In this case, prayer led to action. When I prayed about my ankles, for example, the idea would come to get on my rowing machine for a half hour or so. So I’d put in a DVD and row away. The ankle problem would ease, and I could go back to work.

Then a major life problem hit, involving one of my children. I was not prepared for it on any level, mentally or physically. It tore me apart. I suppose I spiraled into a form of depression. Not getting enough sleep led to having very low energy during the day, which led to eating whatever was handy to get a burst of energy just to keep my eyes open. Emotionally I was a wreck, and physically the symptoms worsened.

I ballooned before my very eyes, but didn’t care that much, I was too unhappy. I think I topped out at about 30 pounds over what is healthy for my frame, putting me beyond what is considered “overweight” into the “obese” category. Interestingly, since I could still winch myself into my clothes, no one noticed, or at least no one said anything. This was all my own journey, internal to me.

I was pouring a lot of prayer into the family situation, 24/7. It was frankly obsessing me. I felt sure *I* had to fix it, that *I* was responsible. But nothing yielded, and the more I pushed, the worse it got. My prayer didn’t go unanswered though. The gift from God was to get a break from the situation. The child went to camp, and I found myself living alone for several weeks last summer.

In that period, I recovered some. First, I got to sleep. I slept for hours and hours, just catching up and overcoming the exhaustion I’d felt. Then, I went for long walks, up and down hills. I watched a lot of movies from the vantage point of my rowing machine. And I talked to a good friend and eating expert on what was the current wisdom on fueling the body.

I prayed in a new way. I prayed for myself, rather than for the child. I prayed to love myself, to learn more how to care for myself, to be able to read my own signals as far as what’s good for me. For me. In all the years I’d been a parent, I don’t think I’d ever, you know, put my own wellbeing first. This was a novel concept.

I realized that in not maintaining my own health, I’d been caught being totally inadequate to the challenge with my child. This in itself was poor motherhood. I would be a better mother if I were in peak condition, ready for anything. I would be a better mother if I took care of myself.

The child was home again briefly, then left for several months to attend school across country. I had another gift of time, time, time. This is when the rubber hit the road, so to speak. I took full advantage of this time to care for myself.

My first goal was simply to remove some pounds. That friend, who is a personal trainer, had told me more frequent, smaller meals would help stabilize my body’s fuel intake. He also emphasized the importance of breakfast, which I’d been skipping and then I would gorge at an early lunch. I changed habits overnight, and found within a few months that my pants were easier to get on again.

I started exercising every day as well. Twenty minutes at first on the rowing machine then led to thirty, then forty. It was rather mellow exercise, I didn’t push it too hard. But as I got stronger, this began to get boring. Winter had hit, so I couldn’t walk outside as much anymore. I began to look for new activities to get my heart pumping, and the answer came to go back to contra dancing (which I’d done years before) and to finally have that one free session with my personal trainer friend.

The dancing, as I’ve written about, was a blast on many levels. The training opened my eyes. It was more fun than I’d had in a long time, just stretching and pushing my body to new achievements. I signed up for weekly sessions. Some more pounds came off. My clothes began to feel more comfortable.

Then, in the spring, the child came home. Not everything went smoothly, but I have to tell you, I was *much* better able to handle it. I made a mental resolution to *keep taking care of myself.* This was huge for me. I did not let the family problems pull me into a spiral of depression again. I remember one Monday night in particular when things were very very bad with this child. I got dressed for dancing and went to contra anyway. The prior year I would have stayed home and tried to talk it to death. This time, I went out, did my thing, and came back refreshed.

The healthier I was, the better I got along with the child. We had some serious bumps in the road still to come, but I stayed on top of it by not falling into it. Now, we’re at a place where we actually enjoy each other. We’re both working to keep things solid between us. I’m not perfect, I still wig out occasionally, but we are getting better as a team at bouncing right out of those moments back to genuine love and respect.

And I am very much enjoying this sense of physical wellbeing. The trainer and I talked more extensively about *what* I’m eating, and I learned to shift the proportions to fruits and vegetables, which I’m loving experimenting with. I enjoy my time with the trainer each week, I enjoy the various aerobic activities I’m doing. Running with the dog, dancing, rowing, walking, it’s all fun. I love seeing the muscle tone and the ease with which I can zip up clothing that I had to struggle into a few months ago. I have a few more pounds to go, but recently I did tip the scales at a BMI in the “normal weight” category for the first time in recent memory.

I’ve learned a bunch of things.

  • First, I need to take responsibility for my own wellbeing. The spiritual work I do doesn’t absolve me from taking the resulting physical steps to keep this engine firing efficiently. It all works together.
  • Second, I can choose to be healthy. It’s my choice. If I’m choosing unhealthy habits, I need to examine that and see where it is that I’m not loving myself. Healthy habits are a form of caring for and loving myself.
  • Third, I need to love myself to be available to effectively love others. How can I be ready to assist if my own being is falling apart?
  • Fourth, health has nothing to do with age. A rise in calendar years is no excuse for letting myself deteriorate. And age can’t stop total health either. I can take the reins and be healthy no matter what my age.
  • Fifth, my accumulation of weight was an accumulation of issues both physical and emotional that I had to work out of my system. Spirituality helped me to do that. Again, it all works together.

Now, I feel on top, in control—I have dominion. Weight no longer controls me. I’m shedding both pounds and misconceptions about myself. And I’m traveling lighter all around.

Your ideas and inspiration are welcome! Please comment below or Contact Laura.
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At 7/30/2007 08:32:00 PM, Blogger Kim said...

this is oh so helpful. thx for shraing it all.

love to you!


At 8/06/2007 12:05:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is such a helpful post. I think I have been waiting for the "walk on water" - ie all-or-nothing weight loss healing, and feeling rather impotent and frustrated about it.This change of emphasis from "losing weight", with some specific goal in mind, to a general sense of looking after myself better, is such a helpful shift in perspective. A practitioner said to me only recently something about learning to love myself the way God loves me, and this has been SO very hard for me to do... But I feel I have turned a corner, thanks to this blog posting. It is so good to let go of end results (stop outlining!) and just go moment by moment with a more loving healthy lifestyle, up to one's highest understanding of that at the moment. Even if that does involve following some general material health theories to some degree.
Thanks, Laura!


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