Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pesky Summer Heat

In Australia, summer can be brutal.  At the height of the season it's not uncommon for the temperature to get into the nineties and beyond.

Here's a little factoid about me - I hate hot weather.

Not your garden variety "Oh fiddle-dee-dee Rhett! I do believe I shall faint!" dislike.  It's a hatred that's buried deep and moaned and groaned about ad nauseum November through March.  Given that I live in the driest state in the driest inhabited continent on earth, this presents as somewhat of a problem.  From April to the end of October, I'm sitting pretty in lovely cool winter sandwiched between two temperate seasons, but then things start to change.

Consider the example of a couple of summers back, when we went through a two week heatwave, the peak of which saw temps of 46ºC (almost 115ºF).  Yeah.  Consider also the very spectacular irony of this heat-hating girl getting pneumonia right in the middle of it.  In other words, life could not be endured without air-conditioning 24/7 and yet I was rugged up under blankets on the couch most of the day.  I went completely loopy.

So now that we've established the background, let me ask a question that has been plaguing me as the weather has begun to warm up this season.

How on earth does one manage a decent fitness regime when just breathing produces enough sweat to sink a ship?

So far, we're easing into summer slowly, with Monday and Tuesday this week being the first real taste of the heat that is to come.  That said, I know the brick wall is coming and I was hoping to work out some strategies to combat the whole "I would rather spit-roast my head than go for a run" mentality before I'm knee-deep in excuses. Here's what I've got so far.

Exercise as early in the day as possible.
Ideally, I'd be out for a walk/run as soon as day breaks, but realistically, it almost never happens.  Why? Because my husband works shifts and I can't leave the house unless he is present (and awake enough) to tend to the wee ones.  If he has already left for work or is sleeping off a late shift from the previous evening, I'm out of luck.

Exercise immediately after the school run
I purposely carve out an hour from 9:30 - 10:30 for this purpose but at the height of summer, the heat has already made it difficult to get - or stay - motivated.  If the weather isn't too bad, I can walk or (attempt to) run, but there's always the option of a self-designed workout or a fitness DVD at home to tide me over.

Exercise in a gym
I don't have a gym membership at the moment and I'm still deciding whether getting one will suit me.  On a limited budget it can be a lot of money.  The pros, of course, include being able to exercise in air-conditioned facilities.  My nearest gym is within walking distance but I'd be a slave to their opening hours, meaning I couldn't postpone a workout until my husband returns home from work - it would need to be a post-school-drop-off morning workout or nothing.

I think the last option is going to be the most practical, despite the expense.  Part of this, I think, is that if I'm 'just' walking on my own or 'just' doing my workouts at home, there's a huge temptation to skip workouts or basically coast my way through a too-easy set of exercises.  If I'm paying for a gym membership the economics might actually work in my favour (ie, not wanting to waste my cash), and physically getting out of the house, like I would if I were attending any other appointment, will help get me in the right mindframe.

And the air-conditioning.  Always a top priority!

I just wish my nearest gym was a little more full-featured.  It has a basic cardio machines room, a female fitness room with some circuit equipment, a larger room with free weights / weights machines open to everyone, and a group fitness room and that's it.  No pool.  The class schedule is decent enough, but choosing a gym is, I think, a really personal decision.  If the place fills up with gym bunnies every day, then that's going to be hugely intimidating for me.

Hmmm, lots to think about.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

I Can't Say No

Or is it that I won't say no?

I've been a people-pleaser my whole life.  I like balance and harmony.  I dislike confrontation intensely.  If ever I find myself suffering the great misfortune of being in an argument with another person, I'm most definitely 'flight' rather than 'fight', but the problem with a personality like mine, is that quite often, words remain unspoken when they ought to be spoken.  Decisions that need to be made get pushed aside in favour of keeping the peace.  If there was one bite of a scrumptious dessert left on my plate, I would give it away.  I was always the girl running the note between a friend and a cute boy, or letting someone copy my homework, or organizing the party.

I used to think this part of me - this incessant need to please everybody - was a virtue to be cultivated.  I'll never be 'Alpha Girl' in the group, and I'm not particularly funny or sporty or musical or pretty, but I can be a good friend.  And then later, it became ...but I can be a good wife.  And then ...but I can be a good mother.  And because I knew no different, I treated these relationships in the same way I had with childhood friendships - I put on my people-pleaser hat and went on my merry way.

And people began to forget I was even there.

As a stay-at-home mother to three kids, one of them special needs, it wasn't hard to define my role.  Mother and wife, usually in that order.  I now understood the inside joke my mother and father had often shared - that Mum was the family secretary, the one who organized the appointments, keep the budget, made sure Person A went to Place B at Time C.  As an adult, whenever I would call home and my father would answer, he'd utter the obligatory ""  Hi sweetie, how are you? Yeah? What's the weather like? Here's your mother,"  and pass the phone like it was a hot metal rod perfectly capable of branding him with any conversation longer than about fifteen words.  I didn't hold it against him.  He would chuckle that anything I thereafter discussed with Mum - sometimes over five minutes, other times an hour - would be stripped of any superfluous detail, condensed, and the finer points presented to him in bullet form.  He was right, and they were.

I stepped right into the role my mother had prepared me for.  I became the secretary of my own little start-up 'company'.  I organized the school lunches, the parent-teacher interviews, the playdates, the birthday parties, the family menu, the household budget, the laundry.  I served myself last at the dinner table.

And I've been serving myself last ever since.

Had my mother lived beyond 55, I would have asked her about this.  Why didn't she look after her health when it mattered?  Hadn't she ever heard of the 'oxygen mask' approach (put your own mask on first and you'll be better equipped to help others)?

She did it to help us, of course, but in the meantime she was busy signing her own death certificate.  She was obese, smoked and did not exercise.  She was world-weary.  Exhausted.  Beaten by life.  And having a finalized divorce, her 55th birthday and a fatal heart attack all in one month.

I won't be her.  I refuse to.  More "no".  Less "Of course I can".

It's time to get selfish.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Mixed Messages & Emotional Eating

I took a day off yesterday and here's why: I hit a wall.

Not just any wall either.  A solid concrete wall.  A friendship was tested.  Is still being tested actually.  There are wounds there now - okay, so they're cat scratches rather than gaping chasms of blood and bone, but they're there.  And for a large portion of yesterday, I was fifteen again, walking past a group of girls who giggled furtively behind their hands, automatically wondering what it was that I did wrong, and exactly what I was going to do to fix 'it' when I knew.

I think it will get better.  Thirty-one offers perspective that fifteen is still light years away from learning, but oh, it had been such a long time since I'd felt so small.  And it was over such a silly misunderstanding.  But people weren't communicating, and messages were getting mixed.  I should have sat on my fifteen year old self until she suffocated and then just moved on, but I didn't.

Instead, I ate.

While I worried and fretted and wailed my way through the afternoon, my other best friend, Food, was right there beside me, waiting to offer comfort.  It's okay, Food whispered. I'll never misunderstand you.  I'll agree with you, always.  Whenever you need me, I'm there.  You don't even need to ask.  Just let Brain work on autopilot and she'll steer Mouth in my general direction.  Then you won't have to worry.  Then you'll feel happy.

This morning, in the cold, hard light of day, I realised what had happened.  I still felt horrible over the previous day's events, but I felt even worse when I realised just how easily Food had taken charge of the situation.  Again.

This is really the first time I've decided to cater for my emotional wellbeing as well as the physical.  It's kind of brutal actually.  I don't want to examine my food choices too closely because I suspect I'll find my problem lies way deep, buried under mounds and mounds of emotional exorcisms that have yet to be performed.  But...

I need to be stronger.  Not physically stronger - although yes, eventually that's the aim - but mentally tough.  I'm 31, and I shouldn't have to waste time sweating the small stuff.

I need to recognise that by putting myself first, I'm serving my family well.  Whether that's by leaving the domestic arrangement for an hour every day, to decompress while DH takes over, or by not being such a pushover when I hear 'no'.

I need to rediscover my voice.  I will not be walked over.  I will not be taken for granted.  I will find an alternative 'decompression device' - and avoid the seductive encouragement Food gives me.

I'm thinking all that will leave a much sweeter taste in my mouth.

Monday, November 15, 2010

When I Lose Weight I'll...

Roni has a great post up today.  And since I'm all about real life and brutal truth now, I can confidently say I've repeated those same statements (and many, many more), over and over like a mantra, every gosh-darn day for the last five to seven years.

When I lose weight I'll...
... not be so embarrassed for my husband when we go out in public together.

... have a prettier face because my jowls will have disappeared.

... be able to jog on suburban streets without people driving past and thinking - or worse, yelling - 'Give up, ya fat cow!' (true story)

... be able to join a gym because a high percentage of people who go there are super-hot and right now I'm a lump of bread dough.

... not feel so self-conscious ordering a salad for lunch because even though I'm fat, I don't like people knowing it bothers me.

... enter that fun run (as a walker), even though I can walk it just fine now, because I'm too self-conscious around all the uber-fit people.

... have righteously good sex every time without worrying about jiggling and dangling and other embarrassing 'big girl' body issues.

The quote Roni included to end her post - and I hope she doesn't mind me reposting it here - was a freakin' excellent example of the attitude I battle with most days.

For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin – real life.  But there was always some obstacle in the way.  Something to be got through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid.  Then life would begin.  At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.  ~Fr. Alfred D’Souza

How many times have I 'waited until Monday' - metaphorically and in reality - in my life (and not just with the weight either)?  How many 'last suppers'?  How many mistakes with food, with life, with love? I'll 'start eating better' on Monday.  I'll play that board game with the kids tomorrow.  I'll do something with that writing diploma next year.  When the kids are older.  When DH is more settled at work.  When I've got a handle on the clutter magnet that is this house.  When we have more money.  When we have more time.

Or, in the case of my weight - will it be when I'm 55, lying dead on the floor from a heart attack, just like my mother? Cursing the fact I didn't just shove the obstacles out of the way when it came to looking after myself?

Wow.  I think the internet just owned me.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Thoughts On Food At 3am

It's nearly 3am.  I haven't been to bed yet.  Well technically I stole an hour or so on the couch earlier tonight but that wasn't on purpose so it doesn't count.

Family is here this weekend, and tonight I cooked a big roast chicken dinner with plenty of fixin's.  I ate too much (of course) and now I'm sitting here with post-cauliflower-and-white-sauce-with-bacon-bits bloat wondering if I'm ever going to get to the point with food where I learn what my body needs to function at its best.  This has nothing to do with diet mumbo-jumbo - it's more about learning to respect food again and the practical role it plays in my life.

Because I don't know about you, but food isn't always just food to me anymore.  Sometimes its comfort.  Sometimes love.  Sometimes even anger or frustration.  Which is completely screwed up.

Food's just food, right? Just a means to get energy into your body so you don't keel over and die?  Well sure, on a practical level.  But then you add processing and sugar and fat and convenience and deliciousness into the mix and before you know it you're eating out of habit, or because you like the way a flavour sits in your mouth, or because it's 6:00pm and that's when dinner is served, hunger be damned.  It really is a backwards system when you think about it.

I've never been able to 'let my body tell me it's time to eat'.  If I was fully trusting of my body's natural ability to regulate it's own hunger then I probably wouldn't be sitting here 25 kgs overweight!  I know when I'm eating more on the healthy side of the fence I'm hungry more during the day than I am when I allow the horse to bolt on my bad food habits.  When I'm controlling my portions, when I'm choosing foods for vitamins and 'bang for my nutritional buck', I feel more hungry, and I feel it more often.  I know down the track this diminishes, but in the meantime, I can't trust that my body will give me signals based on what's the best thing for me.  So I suck up the slight annoyance of never being completely full (although I understand feeling stuffed full after every meal actually isn't good), and try not to dive headlong into the nearest carb source.

And while we're on the subject, I'm not a fad diet person.  No Atkins.  No South Beach.  No Zone.  And good god no Babyfood Diet.  Actually, I've never even tried most of them.  I guess I knew early on in my weight struggle that I would be most comfortable with portion control, 'rainbow eating' and allowing myself treats now and then.  About the only things I've ever tried semi-seriously (in terms of an actual 'system' to follow) was calorie counting and, for a brief 3mo period, Weight Watchers Online (I gave the latter up due to expense and lack of motivation although I recognize it can be great for lots of people) .

No, for me, it's all about clean, normal eating - plenty of vegetables, not too many treats - and exercise.  When I'm on track of course, which I haven't been.

Then there are nights like tonight - family around for a meal - where it's not only okay, but wonderful to forgo the strict stuff and concentrate on the 'community' feeling that food can foster.  Food isn't out to get me.  I just have to learn its language.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Owning The Fat

I'm fat.

Let's not beat around the bush here folks.  At my height of 5'4", I'm at least 25 kgs (55 lbs) overweight.  Obese, in fact, with a BMI of 34.3.

And yet I must have rocks in my head because I have been of the general opinion lately that if I ignore the fact that I'm fat, everything will be just fine.  Sure, I tell myself.  I'm plump and naked I look like a squidgey apple somebody left out in the sun too long, but I'm okay with this.  I can be the 'big girl'.  I can deal with the lack of family photographs (avoided because of my size), the inability to find clothes off the rack that flatter my frame and by golly, even the fact that 95% of my jeans wear out first in the inner thigh seam because of all the friction when I walk.


Several months ago it became apparent that I was not, in fact, happy with anything at all about my weight or general health.  I'd been fooling myself.  And how did I come to this epiphany after so long?

Well, the story begins with a dress.

I'm a jeans-and-tee kind of girl.  Always have been and I suspect always will be.  Wearing a dress is not a natural state of affairs for me.  And as I've grown larger over the years, shopping for a dress has become torturous.  But this time, it had to be done - I was going out with some of my girlfriends and had been beaten into dress-wearing submission on pain of death.

I took one of these friends dress shopping with me.  A much slimmer friend.  Who (of course) had already found her dress on deep discount and only had the fun stuff left to do, like shopping for shoes.  I went to every women's fashion store I could find.  Anything that looked good didn't fit.  Anything that fit, looked hideous.  Up until then, I'd been moseying on quite oblivious to this phenomenon, since it's still (relatively) easy to find a decent pair of jeans and a sassy top in my size (Australian size 16-18, or US 12-14).  I have a favourite jeans store.  Their denim fits wonderfully over my ever-expanding rear.  But buying 'going out' clothes in general? It was a massacre.

There I was, stuck under unflattering changeroom lighting (which only highlighted the t-shirt shaped expanse of bright white, non-tanned skin over my torso) and I could not find a single thing to wear that I could relax into.  I was not comfortable baring my arms in a sleeveless dress (a deathly fear of side boob is partly responsible) and I'd rather pull my eyelashes out one by one than wear a strapless dress (the strength of the strapless bra required to pull that one off is a job best left to NASA) but do you think I could find a sleeved dress that didn't drape like a muu-muu?

That would be a no.

It was a soul-crushing experience and one I hope I don't have to repeat for a long, long time. I did eventually find a little black dress (little? HA!) but in order to make it 'work', there was the 'you don't need that spleen anyway' corset-like shaping underslip thing, the camisole (to minimise the cavernous flash of cleavage the dress gave in its natural form (honestly dressmakers - pay attention.  Not everyone wants to put the goods on display!) and the jacket required to cover the bare arms.  I felt sucked and pinched and bunched up all night.

I don't always want it to be this way.  I remember when I was a wee slip of a thing and the number 10 was on every item of clothing I owned (US size 6).  I have a distinct memory of laying on my back and following the curve of my stomach with my hand - and it was concave!  Imagine!

I saw so many pretty styles on the racks but most were several sizes too small (in one national upmarket department store, I couldn't find anything above an AU size 12 and the majority were still 10s and 8s - when the average size of an Australian woman is now 14-16) Am I losing weight for the health benefits?  Oh, absolutely.  Both of my parents have had heart attacks, one fatal.  But I'd be lying if I said it wasn't partly vanity as well.  We all want to be able to walk into any random store and know that the fancy-pants outfit on the rack will fit.

I've thought about my goal weight this week too.  I used to have this arbitrary figure, 62 kg (137 lbs) stuck in my head.  The reason I'd originally chosen this number was because it would land me smack in the middle of my 'healthy' BMI range for my height.  Nothing too drastic.  Average.  But I've since changed my opinion on this.  My new goal weight is 65 kg (143 lbs), making my BMI toward the higher end of my 'healthy' range.  I had to step back from Unrealistic Land.  I remember 65 kg.  It feels healthy and strong.  And I'm so looking forward to that day.

In the meantime, there's always suck-in-yer-gut shapewear.  Sigh.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...