A couple of years ago, I weighed 25 more pounds than I do today.
After each of the seven kids, I kept adding a little extra padding that didn’t bother me too much. The Pudge of Honor. The bodily sacrifice women make within the labor of love (“This is my body which has been given up for you”). It was good food and love handles for me! I was content enough with life that exercise and dieting held no interest for me. Then, a few kinks in my life made me start re-thinking my body image. First, Tim Duncan. Second, my doctor. Third, my relationship with my husband.
Tim Duncan is not old… and neither am I.
He joined the Spurs about the same time I moved back to San Antonio and immediately became my favorite player to watch. Bruce Bowen caught my fancy briefly later, as I’ve always gravitated to a good defense- but that’s not important right now. Tim Duncan is just a few months younger than I am. In an interview, Duncan said that he was tired of people calling him an ‘old man’, and that he was in the best shape of his life. I thought to myself, I am as old as he is… and I want to be able to say that I’m in the best shape of my life, too!
My doctor wanted me to work on my health.
Periodically, since the birth of Number 4, I got a searing pain in my insides. The first time I felt it, they removed my gall bladder. The following incidents that occurred once or sometimes twice a year, they shook their head and said, “Uh… here. Try heartburn medication.” Tests didn’t reveal anything wrong internally, and there were subtle hints of blaming stress or it just being in my head. The only real finding was that I had a “fatty liver” (I eat a lot of ice cream, so I couldn’t dispute that).
Three babies later, I had my yearly medical evaluation that our insurance insists upon. My doctor shook his head and gave me a small list of things to work on… cholesterol, sugar, weight, triglycerides, and exercise. I firmly reminded him that I have seven kids and a household to manage, so I do not have time to exercise. My doctor, so patient and kind, smiled and told me to exercise five minutes a day. “Fine.”
I lost focus of my relationship with my husband.
My husband and I married young (we married at 19 and our 8 month old was at our ceremony). We spent a few years here and there in the Army, away from the safety net of family and friends. Starting out so young, we had rough times growing up together, but we had fun with each other for the most part. I had more babies and we grew pudgy together.
It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that my husband realized that he had to make an honest commitment to me in order to break through the muck and grime that accumulates in a stagnate relationship. It was then that I realized that one of the reasons I didn’t care what I looked like was because the burden of sexuality wasn’t being placed on me. I decided that I wanted to give my husband a better version of me (this aim was not limited to physicality).
Again, I will be crediting my iPhone for helping me through my life. Obediently obeying doctor’s orders, I searched for exercise apps that I could complete in 5 minutes. I found “Daily Workout Apps“, where I could workout specific parts of my body or a full body workout during either a 10, 20, or 30 minute session. Baby steps… I started with the 10. I was sore later that day… and insulted that it took only 10 minutes of movement to generate soreness. Eventually I worked out almost every day, and even upped my time to a whopping 20 minutes!
Naturally, I attempted to recruit my husband into my activities. “That’s a great idea!” he told me. Since you don’t know my husband, I’ll translate for you: “Theoretically, this is a great idea and we should do this; in reality, I’m going to forget you said anything about this whatsoever and hope that you forget you mentioned it too”.
As my aptitude for physical activity increased, I began to brazenly research calorie counting apps.
I once again found Lose It! I say “once again” because I had casually checked it out once before, but I was not mentally ready to follow through and commit to losing weight at the time. If you have any true motivation to change the way you eat and/or exercise, I heartily suggest you find this app because the app makes everything related to weight loss easily accessible. I read their articles, tracked my calories, and tracked the calories exercise burned. Most of all, I learned a great deal of information that empowered me to continue stepping ahead. My apologies for advertising, but I really do value this app!
I made Mr. Forgetfulpants sign up and we helped each other suffer through for those first couple of weeks. Then, he went on a business trip. While he was away for a few months, I had lots of free time to work on myself. The Goal tracking feature allowed me to see my weight loss gradually week by week; sometimes day to day. In around 10 months, I lost 25 pounds. I’ve been “maintaining” since- fluctuating within 5 pounds of my goal.
As my competence with the Lose It! app increased, I realized that I enjoyed exercising more than I enjoyed limiting my calories.
I dusted off my husband’s stationary bike and started “biking” for 20-30 minutes as I read my text book (life wasn’t complicated enough, so I decided to go back to school). One of the articles I read claimed that running burned the most calories per minute; meaning that I could exercise for a shorter amount of time and still burn as many calories as stationary biking. Brazenly, I decided that I would start running. Actually running- outside- where people can judge me.
So I put on my bright salmon-colored running pants suit that my father-in-law bought me sometime in our Christmas past. I put on my running shoes that I had optimistically purchased not long before. Just in case, I put on a little extra deodorant. My look was completed with a well-practiced ponytail. I wrangled my earphones and put on some hard-hitting inspirational tunes. Finally, I grabbed my bottled water, brightly smiled and waved to the kids that I was going running around the neighborhood, and boldly proclaimed that I would be back in 15 or 20 minutes. Yes, I had the Eye of the Tiger!
Feeling empowered, I ran down the street two blocks. Two. Blocks. I ran down two blocks before I got seriously winded and decided to turn back before my heart exploded on the sidewalk. In what I thought was my life flashing before my eyes, I flashed back to a meme I read once, “I went running, but I had to turn back after five minutes because I forgot something… I forgot that I couldn’t run”. All in all, it took me more time to get ready to run than it did to run out of steam. When I returned, chagrined at my dismal 2.3 minute “run”, Number 3 helpfully said, “Did you run uphill? It’s easier to run downhill.” I cried, “I was running downhill!”. Her tinkle fairy laugh made it possible for me to laugh with her.
Still Baby Steppin’ to Lose Baby Fat
Honestly, it’s been a year since then and I still can’t run for more than a few minutes at a time. My heart races towards 200 bpm and my lungs quit expanding fully. My husband and I jog for about 30 seconds, then walk, then jog… around the track at the park. As my legs and internals have become stronger, I’ve been able to tolerate jogging for longer periods of time, but as of last month, my limit for running has only reached 1/4 of a mile. On other days, we do kickboxing videos to work strength and cardio into our week. I also go to Zumba class twice a week with my mom and daughter.
Last month, I started doing 15 minute Yoga videos. I’m not sure why, it just seemed like the thing to do to soothe my muscles. It turns out that I really enjoy this form of exercise. It is strength training more than cardio, as well as flexibility. I began seeing muscle definition almost immediately, so that is a major motivation to keep working yoga into my morning routine. I use the word “routine” loosely- my schedule tends to be varied and dynamic, so I’ve learned to be flexible.
Of course, all “watching what you eat” activities cease between mid-November and late-December. My sister and her husband started a Family and Friends Weight Loss 10-week Challenge starting in January. It’s been a week and a half, and my husband has lost 4 pounds already! I’m very excited for him and for all the people who started this challenge.
He has never liked the weight he’s put on over the years, but he hates exercising, and loathes dieting more than anything in the world. He claims that I’ve inspired him, but I think this challenge is the excuse he was secretly looking for to continue his progress. My husband had lost 20 pounds along with me, but then switched to “maintaining mode” when I hit my goal, instead of working on those last 30 lbs. toward his own goal. The important thing is that he has re-committed to losing weight. I’m doing everything I can to be supportive: I cook diet-friendly food, participate in his workouts, praise his efforts and progress, eat ice cream secretly in the pantry at night after he goes to bed… things like that.
Finding a Happy Place (so it doesn’t feel like work)
I’ve always enjoyed being active outdoors (you know, as long as the weather is “perfect”). I decided to start taking the kids on hiking trails with me. At first, there was uncomfortable screeching and tearing noise as we traveled too far away from the TV, but we let them take turns playing Pokémon Go for the first several hikes. Soon enough, they were able to detach from the electronic world and zoom in on the natural world.
The San Antonio area has several wonderful hiking opportunities, and FOSANA.org lists educational classes for both kids and adults who want to learn more about nature and conservation efforts located at the different hiking areas. We’ve seen a cactus growing high on a tree, learned to recognize scat (that’s proper for “animal poop”), and experienced the smell and sight of a decomposing deer (yay!).
It’s been rewarding to watch us all get stronger together, and closer. For example, on our way to a hiking trail, the kids were loudly bickering with each other and I regretted every minute in the car with them. After the hike, the kids were excited and singing songs without the radio on for the whole ride home.
The important thing is to keep moving and challenging yourself to look like the person you want to be. One Baby Fat Step at a time!