It’s not officially summer, but since school is out, it’s summer as far as I’m concerned. This particular summer has brought some changes, first and foremost a weight loss program that is long overdue.
For the past several years, I have told myself, not deceptively, that I am — to borrow a phrase from Elden Nelson, aka “Fatty” or “Fat Cyclist” (see his fabulous blog: fatcyclist.com ), “fat fit.” In other words, though I am overweight, I am “fit,” cardiovascularly speaking. And that’s true. I am an avid though amateur cyclist, and in most seasons, I ride with some regularity, usually training for a long-distance event at summer’s end. And up until very recently, blood work would support my fat/fit theory. But this past year, at my annual check-up, my bad cholesterol level had inched up to the higher end of normal, closer to the unsafe level than I like. A few other numbers weren’t as good as they had been either, and to make matters worse, I wasn’t riding, maybe as a result of last year’s training for Pan-Mass Challenge when, at times, I felt resentful of the need to train and wanted just to stay home and read, write, or do anything that wasn’t training. So I stopped altogether, though from my perspective now, I don’t remember it being a conscious decision — but instead the need for intense training was over, and once fall arrived, school started back up and time became precious again.
Perhaps even more critically, not only did I ride infrequently (i.e. 3 or 4 times all fall), I stopped working out regularly, too. Again, not so much a conscious decision but something I let happen.
Now, to further exacerbate the situation, the school year was a tough one. We had, this year, more than the average number of difficult situations with kids — suicide attempts, hospitalizations, abusive parents, even a cardiac arrest (NOTE: that student is doing well today, thankfully!). We had difficult situations with teachers — our beloved musical theatre teacher suffered a stroke at age 34 (NOTE: he is making good progress…), a dear friend and English department colleague who shattered her ankle and missed the last two months of school (she is healing well now too). It just seemed that one thing happened after another with no time to process or heal or make sense of it all. Topping it off, we missed weeks of school in the winter because of bad weather, and while that time should seem like a gift, truthfully, missing so many days makes the in-school time more difficult for a variety of reasons. All in all, this has been the hardest year I remember in my twenty-nine years of teaching.
So..instead of exercising, I was more inclined to come home, open a bottle of wine, pour a glass and flop onto the couch. Day after day after day. And thus, the inevitable weight gain.
But now that school is over, I am motivated to do something about it, and I’ve started the Ideal Protein diet (you can read about it here: http://www.idealprotein.com and here: breckenridgechiro.com). Three weeks in, and I’m down 14 lbs. and over 7 inches. I’m ecstatic!
I’ve noticed, too, some important changes that are accompanying this weight loss journey:
- Becoming more mindful in general. Because I have to prepare my food daily, because I can’t just grab something and go, I’m slowing down and becoming more mindful of what I eat and how I am spending my time. Mindfulness is something I have consciously tried to cultivate in my life, but this year especially, I found myself carried along with the messiness of everyday life — doing, doing, doing but not reflecting, not being conscious at all. The shift to mindfulness is noticeable and welcome.
- More energy! Part of this diet’s protocol (for the beginning phases at least) requires me to give up alcohol. Less wine means more energy — but the supplements I’m now taking and the much healthier eating habits are contributing to that, too. More energy means more time to do the things I love, like writing and reading and working in the garden. Now of course I knew that flopping on the couch with a glass (or 2 or 3) of wine wasn’t helping my evening energy level, but I’m a creature of habit, and once I established that habit of coming home and having a glass of Zinfandel or Cabernet, I started to look forward to it. My stress levels told me I needed it when, of course, I didn’t. So, cutting out the alcohol, as much as I love wine, has been beneficial to me in lots of ways, not the least of which is redirecting my habits and ways of dealing with stress.
I’m sure I’ll discover more benefits as I continue with the program.
Now, one potential drawback for this program is that exercise (at least most aerobic exercise) is prohibited too, so for now, I’m not riding. Like the alcohol prohibition, it’s temporary, and I am definitely looking forward to hopping back on the bike and climbing hills with much less extra weight! So for the immediate future, there will be no cycling posts. Instead — many more writing posts, I hope!
It’s funny how one change can influence so many others. I didn’t anticipate a general improvement in my days simply because of a decision to lose weight, but of course everything we do is connected. Being mindful about what I eat and drink helps me to be mindful when I approach my writing. My friendships. My relationship. I’m grateful for the opportunity to see this play out in my life these days. And as the summer continues, I’ll keep you posted on my progress.