I recently undertook a brief rummaging session through a box of old photos. There I was, age 5, at a birthday party. There were 5 or 6 of us seated at a picnic table, party hats askew, digging into bowls of ice cream, gazing up to the photographer with goofy grins. Only one of them – me – was nose down, my spoon a blur of frenzied activity. Eating then, eating was serious.
Here I am, fast forward, trying to explain my habits and efforts to turn them into workable pre-occupations. The eating. The exercise. The control. The fitness. Blah, blah, blah. I’ve heard it all before.
But this time, can I see a crack of light? No epiphany, sorry. No baptism of revelation. At age 52, just a growing sense I might be able to corral the beast — the beast being me.
I have been training at Options for 7 years, and during that time have flirted with new eating habits, purchased a treadmill and a Stairmaster – even bought one of those rubber jump ropes to use while traveling. Of course, I ended up stuffing it in my closet. See, I do the exercise and I eat all the healthy stuff. But I also overdo the baguettes that I think don’t count because I eat them not from a plate, but right out of the bag. I do the fruits and vegetables, but I do all the other stuff too – lots of other stuff.
Following the Options guidelines, I was hoping to put together the exercise and food with some sense of understanding and moderation.
I encountered an immediate roadblock in the form of a planned vacation to New York just a few weeks after starting the program. I made concessions: I ate at wonderful restaurants at night but made an agreement with myself to lay off the bread, the butter, the extra wine and the dessert. When I broke my own rule – which I’m fond of doing – and ate dessert, for example, I vowed to make it up the next day. And I did, generally in the form of walking the extra 18 blocks instead of taking a taxi. It kind of worked. I was kind of pleased.
Back at home, I decided to make another rule, one which I was reasonably sure I could follow. I took a look at my schedule and myself. I don’t have an emotional relationship with exercise the way I do with food, so I figured I could step up the exercise with some probable degree of success. And, I thought if I exercised more, it would help with my real demon, food control. I do weight training twice a week. I now try to get on the treadmill 5-6 days a week and I would have to say I try harder than I did before.
The eating, the exercise, the patience: It’s all a process of turning something into a habit, so that it becomes the rule not the exception.
The exercise thing is working out pretty well. And although the food thing is another matter, I’ve lost some weight. What I’m doing that I’ve never done before is think about what I’m doing. If I’m going out for dinner, I think about what I’ll have and not have. It works maybe 60% of the time. That’s not bad for me.
The other thing too is I am beginning to realize that if I exercise and think about what I’m doing food wise, I am a work-in-progress. I try not to think about how thin I want to be. I try not to think about how little I should eat. I try not to think about the pants in my closet I wore years ago that I’m still hanging on to. I try not to think about all the goodies I cannot have. Instead I think about what time I will leave work to go home and jump on the treadmill. I think about getting up to get another glass of water. I think about having a piece of turkey in the afternoon instead of a hand full of malted milk balls. I think about how good I feel if I can say at the end of the week I exercised most days. When I think about the foods I love, I think that I can eat almost anything I want, but maybe just half of it or a third of it.
The Options guidelines have taught me…taught me? Take it piece by piece. Do the best you can. Make little changes, slowly, and think about those changes until they approach habit. And don’t stop moving!