Friday, January 15, 2010

The Why

I've always been an "all or nothing" person.  So, one random Tuesday I'd decide to finally Get Fit!  I'd buy a new outfit, join a gym or buy equipment for the house, go to the gym or use the equipment religiously for three days and work out for an hour and a half, buy a grocery cart full of diet food, quit smoking, hate life, and quit all of these healthy new ways by the weekend.

I can't tell you how many hundreds of times I've lived that sentence.  Probably every 4 - 6 months since I turned 18.  I am not exaggerating at all - ask BJ how many gym memberships we've paid for and never used!

"I can't do it," I'd think.  "I'm not meant to be fit.  My body was designed to weigh XXX pounds.  Look at my family!  They all weigh XXX pounds or more, too!  I'm never going to look different.  Other people are better, stronger, smarter, more worthy, etc. than I am because they can exercise and I can't..."  On and on would go those horrible "mind tapes" that I talked about the other day.

Well, this time I decided to be less of an idiot. 

I quit smoking in October.  I let that sit for a while - about 30 days - before I started eating better.  Then I kept that up for 30 days (a little more, actually, because of the holidays).  Then I started exercising when Brandon gave us his elliptical.

During the time when I was eating better, and losing weight, but not exercising (yet) people kept telling me, "You have to exercise!!" but I resisted until it was time to implement what I called "phase 3," because I knew that this time I wasn't going to bite off more than I could chew.  And it's working...

The first night, about two weeks ago, I tried the elliptical.  I stayed on for 5 minutes and had an asthma attack.  But instead of playing all of my "I can't..." tapes, I decided, "Well, ok, that was 5 minutes.  I'll try it again tomorrow."

That day I did 10 (with my inhaler close at hand).  No asthma attack.

A couple days later I did 15 minutes.  Then 20.  Then 25.  Then I added 5 minutes of "cool down" on the bike.

Today I did 30 minutes on the elliptical and 15 minutes on the bike.  Was it hard?  Yeah, a little.  It'll be easier tomorrow.  And when it gets too easy, I'll add another 5 minutes (or I'll up the resistance on the machine).

The thing I've learned, the thing that took me 33 years to learn, is that you can't just up and change EVERYTHING on some random Tuesday.  You have to give your body and your mind time to adjust to new practices.  It's all about gradual, incremental changes.

If I had tried to do 30 minutes on the elliptical and 15 minutes on the bike two weeks ago when Brandon brought the elliptical over, I would've been in pain (I probably would've been in the hospital, actually.  Stupid asthma...).  I would've hated every second of it, and I would be hanging laundry on the damn thing by now.

Gradual, incremental changes.  That's not so hard.  Why did it take me 33 years to figure it out?


It's really hit home for me this week that the changes I'm making are going to prolong my life.  My aunt Ann is in the hospital in Tennessee.  She had chest pain yesterday, and is having an angiogram today.  She is in her early 60s.  Heart disease is the #1 killer of both women and men in the United States - it kills more people every year than all forms of cancer combined.  My dad has had a quadruple bypass a couple years ago.  My mother's father died of heart disease.  High blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes run rampant through my family tree.

...and my kids' family tree.

With every step I took on the elliptical today, I thought of Ann.  And I thought about how, for the first time, my kids are starting to play "exercise."  Mary Grace will run in place, and I'll say, "What are you doing?" and she'll say, "My exercise!"

I'm not just changing my future.

I hope that if you're reading this, and you've been thinking about changing your own unhealthy habits, regardless of what they are, that you'll try what I suggested above.  Just start with 5 minutes.  And in a couple days, when you're stronger, try 10.  Just start with one meal a day.  Try making dinner truly healthy.  Worry about lunch next week, and breakfast the following week.  Just add one vegetable or one fruit to your daily diet.

Don't do it for me.  Do it for yourself.  Do it for your kids.

I love you, Ann.  Get well soon.

Updated to add:  Ann is going to be fine.  It wasn't a heart attack, thank goodness.

12 comments:

Bev said...

Brilliant...one of the best blog posts I've ever read...and I read a lot of them!

Anonymous said...

Very well said. So happy for you. So proud of you! I don't know why it takes so long to learn things while other things come easy. I, personally, want surgery to remove the steel plate in my head that keeps attracting people to me and me to them who are broken and I think I can fix them and then things fall apart and I'm lost and lonely again!
ly, Con

Jen said...

I am so proud of you... stick with it!

Auntie Ann said...

Dear Amy,
I've never been blogged about before and I am most appreciative of your kind words. Yes, I had quite the scare and it is because of 60+ years of thinking that I'd take better care of myself... someday. I am glad you have realized how important it is to take positive action while you are young. Fortunately, I have nice clean arteries; one is twisted and that was the source of the pain and fatigue. Looks like I have to put the cigarettes on the shelf, walk more and imagine that grapes are the "new" M&Ms. I have lots to do yet in my life so this old broad is going to make some real changes. I have beautiful grand nieces and nephews and I plan to dance at all of their weddings. Thanks Amy for your thoughts. I love you too.

Mamameah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mamameah said...

That is a very good plan, nice work! Little successes are the best, I wish you well with this and may follow suit shortly.

Glad to hear your Auntie Ann is doing well. Her post brought tears to my eyes and I know that 60 is not too late. I've seen success in family members who've been through several heart attacks and after making new healthy choices, they lead much better lives with oodles more energy.

You two should run a marathon together to celebrate :)

The Moniak Family said...

Thanks for the inspiration! :)

Liz said...

I'm glad your aunt will be fine. I agree that tiny incremental changes are the way to go. I'm doing my best to do it too. I'm up to 20 minutes on my elliptical.

Essie the Accidental Mommy said...

Congratulations on finding a path that works for you, that you can also maintain. It's not easy!

Hi- I saw your post under a blogher ad, just stopped in!

Rachel said...

Great post, well said. Thank you.

RobMonroe said...

Thanks, Amy. My trouble is convincing the spouse to let me bring equipment into the house - she likes her living room just how it is and the basement is never used. I found a bike on Craigslist just now (thanks to you!) and have practically demanded that get it. The problem is that she has time after school that she HAS to kill before getting Abby. I don't have that luxury. Ugh.

Happy Tuesday!

Erin said...

these posts are so inspiring! keep 'em coming. you are do great on your weight loss/get healthy journey - way to go!!!