Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Pressing the Reset Button

I hate New Year's resolutions. I quit making them a number of years ago. It seemed so contrived to accept an arbitrary date as the reason to make changes in my life, today.

New Year's is to exercise equipment, gym memberships and weight-loss shakes as Valentine's Day is to chocolate, flowers and lingerie. Is their proximity in time coincidental? I think not. By mid-February all those who were shamed into starvation diets and self-flagellation-by-treadmill are ready for some comfort, and for good reason.

I understand the need to review and to plan; to set goals and deadlines. I have attended Franklin Covey workshops and I enjoyed them. Nothing makes my heart sing like fresh office supplies and filling in a blank calendar. However, I bristle at anyone suggesting that a particular date is better than any other on which to launch oneself into a new habit. The Muse strikes when she will, calendar be damned!

I am usually struck by the Personal Annual Review Muse near my birthday. I think about my favorite moments from the previous year; what I'd like to do more of; what is no longer serving me. The Goal Setting Muse tends to inspire me as the seasons change.

Last winter, I started practicing yoga again after a lengthy hiatus. I was thinking a lot about my upcoming milestone birthday and reflecting about the kind of life I wanted to be living. I was able to shift my internal dialogue a bit, away from shaming towards loving.

Despite my good intentions, I was sidetracked by knee pain, general busyness and oh, buying, selling and renovating a house or two. Little things. Nothing very time consuming.

Instead of berating myself for "failing" once again to stick with fitness, I did a very yogi-like thing: I let those thoughts pass by with the certainty that delay was, in this instance, not equivalent to failure. I knew my mind had shifted and that I'd pick it back up once things settled down a bit.

It took until mid-September, but once the girls headed back to school and the kitchen renovation noise became intolerable, I started going to the YMCA. I had investigated some fancier gyms, but they were just too much: overwhelming in every possible way.

My weight had climbed to my highest ever non-pregnant level, but it wasn't about the number on the scale. When we moved last summer, I realized how weak I had become - I couldn't lift and move boxes like I used to do. That bothered me much more than my weight. There were things I wanted to do - canoeing, gardening, cycling - and my out-of-shape-ness was holding me back.

The first time I went, it was with both girls.They were required to have an "orientation", so I went off in another direction while they worked with a member of the staff. I was ready to get started. Surprisingly, it felt good. It felt good to push myself and sweat and see what I was capable of.

The very next day, I went back, this time with Hombre. Again, it felt good. I went back the next day, and the next and the next and the next.

I did my own thing. I found a machine that I really liked - sort of an elliptical, but more like running in its movement. (I think it's called an AMT?) I started tracking my distance and calories burned. I added weight training; one day upper body, the next day, lower body; every day abs and back. Then I tried the rowing machine and I liked it, too. I listened to Pandora on my iPod, bouncing along to Katy Perry, P!nk and Alanis Morrisette. Sometimes I ran on the treadmill. I started to see familiar faces who smiled and nodded as they, too, went about their own routines.

As I gained momentum, something flipped inside my psyche. I stopped looking at exercise as my punishment for being fat and I started seeing it as something I was doing FOR myself, not TO myself.  I loved seeing my muscles develop. I noticed changes in the way my clothes fit. I ran farther and farther (without going anywhere) and lifted more and more weight. I started to think about signing up for a 5k, when Hombre pointed out to me that I was already running farther than that every day. 

Suddenly, I had all kinds of energy. I was bouncing off the walls, singing, dancing and I was so very full of joy. I felt like the me I used to be. I talked to my doctor and put in place a plan to taper off of the antidepressant I had started taking way back in 2002 for postpartum depression. (I had tried to stop a couple of times before, unsuccessfully.)

Along the way, something else happened: I brought sexy back.
(Apologies to Justin Timberlake.)

That was probably the most surprising part of my transformation: I started feeling sexy again. I bought a few new pieces of clothing with a bit of va-va-va-voom. I liked what I saw in the mirror. I was no longer embarrassed about the view afforded to the men on stationary bikes behind me as I ran.   I began to actually believe the compliments Hombre (has always) heaped upon me. I was not thin, but I felt sexy.

By my 50th birthday in late November, I had lost a little more than twenty pounds, but more than that, I lost the self-consciousness and self-hatred I have carried around, well-hidden, since before I was even a teenager. Somehow I was able to press the reset button and reboot my self-esteem.

When our house caught fire in early January, my routine was thrown off. We have been relying on prepared foods and restaurants meals too much. I haven't been to the YMCA since January 10th because our hotel is about 45 minutes away from it. There has been "stress snacking."

What I have not done is succumb to the "all or nothing" thinking in which I used to engage. Before, I was either on plan or off plan; 100% successful or a rank failure. Now I am more patient. I have squeezed in workouts in the hotel fitness room whenever I have been able. I have been going to yoga classes regularly, since the studio is more convenient than the YMCA. I'm trying to make the best choices I can from the options before me, knowing that my health is a long-term, big-picture process and our current situation is just a curve in the road. (Mix metaphors much?)

I'm not worried about backsliding, because I am different now: reset, rebooted and delightfully mid-century modern.