July 13, 2011 by rebelwithalabelmaker
So, all of my life until a couple of years ago, I have been a fervent exerciser and dieter. Wait, I'm not supposed to say diet. In Weight Watchers meetings, they would impress upon us that "Lifestyle Change" was the right terminology. And I would look around at the room packed with all women with the leader declaring that we are embarking on a Lifestyle Change and suppress fits of giggles. Anyway, I don't care what they call it. I use the term "Hungry and Preoccupied".
Those of you who know me might be surprised to hear about the amount of energy I've put into healthy living. I'm not a particularly thin person. I'm not overly fat, either–just… a bit round. And dense. Physically.
We Jameses have heavy bones. We pride ourselves on the fact that in our whole family line there have been only two fractures. Okay, it's only me that takes any pride in this.
Broken Bone #1: My dad fractured a cheekbone when he fell off of part of Mount McKay (if he'd fallen off of the whole mountain it'd have been a full break). Broken Bone #2: My great grandfather apparently fractured his hip when he was eighty two. He fell off the roof that he was re-shingling at the time.
Also, we build muscle every time we so much as glance at a set of weights. Ditto with building fat every time we so much as glance at a batch of cookies. Usually after the glancing comes the eating. Anyway, with all the bone and muscle and fat, our knees wear out. And then there's the diabetes. So, for many years, I dieted and exercised like my life depended on it. Because it does. I always stayed in the same 20 pound range–although the amount of energy it took to stay there was gargantuan.
About a year ago, I stopped eating sugar for four months–in the hopes that it would improve my concentration (and with a nagging feeling that my relationship with sugar is not unlike some peoples' relationship with cocaine). I found it to be remarkable. Turns out, I don't have an eating issue. I have a sugar issue. Remove sugar from the equation and I start eating when hungry, enjoy the experience, and then stop eating when full and declare in a mature and responsible voice "well, that's all the sustenance and nutrients my body requires for now!"
After ten years of mammoth effort on the diet and exercise front, I found a new and infinitely less complex plan of eating:
1) Only own one kind of pants (excluding dress pants and exercise clothes). Unstretchy pants.
2) When they stop fitting, eat less sugar for a while.
A side benefit is that when you wear the same kind of jeans all the time, you will instantly know if your zipper is down.
I got in an argument recently with a friend of mine, who has had all kinds of success with dealing with emotional issues around food–and that's made a big difference for her. I tried valiantly for years to deal with my emotional issues, only to discover that I just really like to eat.
We got halfway through the debate on which was the best approach to maintaining a healthy weight before we suddenly realized that weight, like everything else, is probably not something with a Universal Solution. We are not all the same. Gary's advice how to eat less sugar was "maybe try eating less sugar". This is the guy who said to me: "One time, I ate a cookie, and then I wanted to eat another cookie. Even though I just had a cookie! I wasn't even hungry!". Clearly, like so many things in our lives, we are all different. It would follow that we would all have different needs–and so generic advice probably wouldn't work. Gary, for example, struggles to make sure he eats only a healthy amount of fat. I could maintain a diet of zero fat and be perfectly happy. Popsicles and Jelly Beans.
So, the perfect diet is like the perfect pair of shoes. Specific to the person who found it.
Another thing I've realized is that, for me, an easy solution is better than a perfect one. I can make a house keeping spreadsheet, but my actual useable method of homekeeping is "whenever you have five minutes, switch a load of laundry, reboot the dishes, and sweep a floor". Same with eating. Part of the reason "when your pants are too tight, eat less sugar" works so well is that it only takes nine words to explain it.
So, this system worked great for about eight months, and then I started having health problems. Primarily back pain, but also some shortness of breath. I had trouble sleeping and concentrating. My mood started to suffer.
"I'm suffering from inadequate sugar intake. It's damaging my health." I complained to Gary.
I tend to feel that anything that goes wrong with my body is somehow his responsibility, since he is the one with the medical knowledge. He tends to feel that anything that goes wrong with his iPhone is my responsibility, since I am the one who knows what Itunes is. Last week, he came home angry because the screen shattered when he dropped it. The third time. I don't even have to worry about him telling you the full story (I gave him a faulty case) because I am very confident that he will never figure out how to comment on–or even read–this blog.
Anyways, I complained (about my health, not the iPhone) and he got this look on his face like he knew what the problem was, but didn't want to say it. Like the time he tested me for Leukaemia (didn't have it). Way worse than the time he thought I had gallstones (I don't have those either). At about the same level of horrified that he got when things were a bit dicey during Eric's birth (I did have Eric).
Fear. Like, way beyond the "you might have cancer" level.
Me: What is it?
Gary: Well, um…
(This is a guy who sometimes tells as many as a half dozen people in a day that they're going to die. He is growing paler by the minute. This Must Be Serious).
Me: WHAT??? WHAT DO YOU THINK IS WRONG???
Gary: Well, it's just… well, ever since you've been controlling your weight so easily with the sugar thing you haven't been exercising. You're kind of… not as fit, now, as you used to be.
(Gary waits for Horrible Consequences).
Me: But I've never had any of those benefits they talk about from exercising.
Gary: You've never not exercised. How would you know?
Me: But my health problems didn't start when I stopped exercising. They started at least six months later.
Gary: Sometimes it works that way.
I was not convinced. But my back was hurting so much at night that it was keeping me awake, so I dropped to the floor to do a hundred sit ups.
I could do nine.
Me: I don't understand–a year ago, I could do a hundred sit ups a day.
Gary: Sometimes it works that way.
So, I did nine situps per day for three days running, and the back pain disappeared and has never returned. This convinced me. I would need to do a bit more fitness work. But, just like my eating routine, my exercising routine from earlier years had always been unpleasant and time consuming. I didn't want to go back to waking up at six, forcing myself to jog and lift weights. Hmm… (to be continued)…