The Hard Work of Living Healthy

Sometimes it is really hard to stay committed to a healthy lifestyle.  I’m just going to admit that out loud.  It doesn’t mean that I am going to waver, just that at times each step is an uphill battle. 

I have written frequently about that my terrible start to exercising, where I went down to the basement each weekday morning with a dark cloud over me and something akin to hatred in my heart at what I had to do.  When I finished up, I would be so incredibly relieved until I remembered that I had to do it all over again the next day.  I lived that way for the first three months, when I finally moved from hatred to active dislike.  Above any other exercise, I reserved the most dislike for planks and push-ups.  It didn’t matter how much I did them, they were just hard. 

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I think my first real exercise “break-through” was when I started having a lot of pain in my left foot.  After about a month I went to the doctor and found out I had severe arthritis in that foot and an old fracture in my ankle.  Dr. Joe put his foot down with me (you are so welcome!) and actually wrote out “no push-ups and no planks” on a prescription pad.  I was elated.  I went without a plank or a push-up for nearly a week—and I went from elated and gleeful to…let down.

Every time I did a plank or a push-up I was feeling my commitment, my resolve.  I was proud of myself, and doing them gave me an emotional lift.  So, I talked with my trainer at the time, Jess, and asked her what to do.  She figured out that if I hooked my left leg over my right one, I could still do planks and push-ups without bothering my foot a bit. 

  “Great,” I thought to myself.  “We just made them harder.”  But, it didn’t stop me from adopting the new method and reinstating them in my daily routine.

There are still times exercises become tough, for whatever reason.  My interval training this morning was a case in point.  I felt like my heart was going to explode out of my chest.  There was no feeling of an energy burst; I’m pretty sure my dopamine was conked out somewhere reading a book.  I just had to power my way through, live through my resolve.

The first time my resolve was really tested with my food intake was when I was weaning myself off of Contrave, the medicine I took to control my appetite.  I was fine until I was on a half dose and then—big bam here—my appetite slammed into me.  Not just every once in awhile.  It was constant.  I woke up hungry, I was hungry when I got up from the table, I was hungry when I went to sleep.  Stomach-growling, hollow-inside hungry.

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It was the only time on this journey that I was absolutely rigid about what I ate.  I measured and weighed my food, I took extremely small portions so that if I wanted more, I actually had to get up from the table to get it.  I became more vigilant about setting my fork down halfway through that small portion and waiting awhile to allow my stomach time to catch up and let me know if I had enough.  I did this for about two months, living on pure resolve, until finally the hunger right-sized itself and I could loosen the reins a little bit.

Every once in awhile, I still find myself taking a bit more of something than is reasonable, flexing a little too much.  I am still, and always will be, a recovering food addict.  When those times happen, I don’t descend into shame as I used to.  I adjust, I make decisions, I use the scale as my guide.  I power through until it’s easy again.

I think some of the hardest work is when you are trying to lose weight and you hit a plateau.  In the beginning of this path, a plateau would send me into a panic with self-blame, convinced I was doing something wrong.  I did find it helpful that I sent a monthly email of my progress to a dietitian in Dr. Joe’s office.  It let me see that what seemed like a plateau to me was just normal variation, and that my monthly weight loss totals were fairly consistent—at least, until I had seven more pounds to go.  Those seven pounds took about four months.  I stayed the course, though, and powered through. 

I guess what comforts me when the road gets tough is to know—to know—that it won’t always be tough.  There is a rhythm to everything, and living healthy inevitably will get a little bumpy from time to time, before the road smoothes out again.

Believe in that.  Believe in yourself and power through.

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