It would be pretty easy for me to write a nice bouncy piece each week about how great it is to go to the gym. (Seriously, I love going to the gym. Go figure.) But I believe that where the rubber hits the road with a journey to physical fitness and better health is during the hard times, just like life in general. And the past few weeks have been a real struggle for me.
I’ve been dredging up ancient issues that have led me through a lifelong path of “emotional eating,” or eating to hide or express emotions. That includes overeating and even binge eating. It sucks to admit, but there it is.
What is different now—as opposed to the many, many years when I talked about getting in shape, lamented the fact I hadn’t yet gotten in shape, wished I was in shape, and longed to be a different shape—is that now I have a plan. So when things get tough, I return to my plan.
If you’ve read this column at all, you will notice that I always say the same things: Don’t beat myself up. Celebrate my baby steps. Go back to step one. Rinse and repeat. It might not be the best outline for a weekly column, but for getting in shape, that repetition of simple ideas, and that implementation of a simple plan, is where it’s at for me.
Here’s how things used to go, for most of the past 30-plus years: I would make some effort—almost always to curb my diet, but occasionally to get more exercise. I would then fall off the wagon after a few hours, days or weeks. I would then berate myself for a very long time for not doing it right. Sigh. It leaves me tired just to type that stuff out.
Here’s how it goes now: I have a plan. My plan includes buying healthy food and preparing my lunches for work on Sunday, and spending at least an hour a day being active. That’s really about it: Eat real food and get my sedentary self moving.
This simplicity helps me when I fall on my face. Then it’s time to stand up, dust off one more time, and return to the plan. And that’s what I did this week.
I’ve been working out with my daughter, who is the best gym buddy ever. She keeps coming up with really hard things to do that I wouldn’t have done on my own. Yesterday, for instance, I spent 20 minutes on an elliptical. That doesn’t sound like much until you factor in my pathological hatred of cardio machines. I also managed to do two “kips,” a hanging ab-leg-pull-up thing that is much harder than it seems like it should be. I used to be able to do zero kips. And regardless of what my ability was, the fact is that I never did one until yesterday. Okay, maybe I did some when I was a kid and it was all just playing, and none of it was called exercise.
That remains the crux of my strategy, to find active and fun things, then do them. My aim is to revive that feeling from my childhood when running wasn’t a chore, just the fastest way to get somewhere. When swinging by my arms wasn’t a workout but just another thing that my body could do.
I’ll leave you with this thought today: For most of my life, I have not fully inhabited my body. Working out has planted me in my body. I’m in tune with how sore I am, how out of breath I am, how tired I am, whether I think I can push out a little more effort.
I’ve heard that when girls do sports, it teaches them that their bodies are not ornamental, but functional. I find it is the same for me. The more I use my body, and push myself to do things I couldn’t do before, the more I like it. The more I am in my body, the more I listen to its messages, like whether or not I’m hungry. Seems like nothing, but to me, that’s a big deal.
Do you struggle with emotional eating? I’d love to hear your strategies for changing that pattern. You can get in touch with me at 505-286-1212 or firstname.lastname@example.org or join the ongoing conversation on Facebook by searching for my group, “I’m Losing It!”