Last week I wrote about caring for myself during a crisis as my family was impacted by the Dog Head Fire; this week, hard on its heels comes a holiday weekend.
Fundamentally this column is about making a long-term lifestyle change from self-neglect and a sedentary way of life to one of joyful self-care. “Losing it,” as in losing weight, isn’t really the point, although weight provides a handy measure.
Self-neglect for me, as for many women, came through the time-eating process of raising children and maintaining a household, where my own needs were always at the bottom of the list. That wasn’t something that anyone did to me, but my own priorities. I used to joke that caring for myself was not even in my Top Ten priorities. These days I try hard to make it my first priority, with limited success.
And now that my four kids are grown and moved out, I’m the only person left to take care of—which has helped with this process immensely.
Still, there is always something that will deflect me from my plans for eating healthy, whole food and getting regular exercise. When my routine is humming along, those plans have been working out fairly well most of the time.
So what do you do, when you go to a family barbecue, and find homemade ribs, hot dogs and hamburgers, three kinds of pasta and potato salad, soda, beer, cake, candy and more? What I do is enjoy the fabulous cooking of my aunts, uncles and cousins. What I’m learning to do is to to enjoy that bounty without going overboard, something that is much easier said than done.
Most of the time I avoid sugar and processed food including white flour. And my tastes are changing. In years past, even though I’ve never been much of a soda drinker, I would have had soda and candy along with the barbecue. This year I stuck to water and passed on the candy. I had a slice of cake, and found it a bit too sweet, which surprised me.
Exercise this past week has mostly been in the form of running around. And I don’t mean running around a track, although there was a bit of that. Again, I feel my body changing. For awhile, I had been getting regular exercise—and the biggest change I’ve noticed is that after going a couple of days without any significant exercise, my body craves that movement. Today I am longing for the return of my routine, which has been blasted into outer space this summer, just like it is every summer.
Self-care to me encompasses the physical, the mental and the spiritual. To gather with my mom’s siblings for the Fourth of July feels healing and good for my large extended family, so I balance that with the aspects that are less good, like cake and candy.
My newborn practice of really paying attention when I eat comes into play. I don’t have to eat everything in sight. Water tastes great when it is hot outside and I’m sweating. I can taste and sample without going “whole hog” like I used to.
People being what we are, I still wish I had a magic wand. But when I slow down enough to pay attention, I notice that my baseline really has changed. I am not the woman I was a year ago. And while that incremental progress toward my goals feels way too slow sometimes, it is the best way to make the kind of changes I’m making in my lifestyle. So Happy Independence Day! I hope you enjoyed the barbecue—in moderation.
What are your strategies for staying on task with health and fitness goals when your routine goes out the window? You can reach me at 505-286-1212 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or look for my Facebook group, “I’m Losing It!”