I'm not a nutritionist. I'm not a fitness expert.

I am a 57 year old woman who has never felt more healthy and fit in my entire life. Five years ago, at 52, I weighed about 80 lbs. more than I do now. I felt much older, with stiff joints and back aches and no energy. And don't even ask about clothes!

My goal was not just weight loss, but to get healthier. I did not "go on a diet," I did not count calories or carbs. I made lifestyle changes, a little at a time. I tried to eat healthier and move more. You can do this, too. You can make changes to look, and more importantly, feel healthier and fit. You don't have to be overweight to be unfit. You will feel a difference in strength, energy, stamina and flexibility. I'm talking to you, men, too!

I can tell you how I did it. Not everything I do will be right for you. Through posts about my progress; tips and ideas about nutrition and exercise; links to sites I like and find helpful, I hope to inspire others to get fit and healthy and encourage a community of support and an exchange of ideas. And have a little fun on the way! Much of our information will be about local Cape Ann sites - walking and bike routes, gyms, types of exercise, yoga studios, good buys on healthy food - but Guests and commenters from anywhere are welcome as well.

Okay, I know you all want to know. Right now I'm wearing a pair of Levis - size 8. A comfortable size 8!

Twenty year old daughter:
"Mom, why are you wearing my clothes?"
Mom: "Because I can!"

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Where to Start - Motivation

In 2004, I made a decision to get healthy. I had an epiphany. I can even tell you the exact moment: I was at Tally's Service Station to watch the Horribles Parade. I was standing with my arms folded across my chest - or rather, resting them on my stomach. I looked across the street at the dozens of overweight people. I did not see 'fat' people, I saw unhealthy people like myself.

I was 52 years old. I felt crappy and much older. My back ached, my joints hurt, my feet were so stiff that I literally hobbled down the stairs in the morning. I couldn't haul myself up and down my attic any more. One of my younger sisters had been diagnosed with rectal cancer about six months before (a cancer survivor, she is almost six years clean now). Shortly after that, a younger brother had a quadruple bypass. Then another younger brother had a heart event and had stents inserted in his arteries. My dad died of a heart attack at age 53. The size 18 jeans I was wearing restricted the circulation in my legs when I sat down. I really needed a bigger size, but I couldn't bring myself to purchase a size 20. I shopped in the Plus Size sections. I haven't owned a scale in about thirty years so I don't know how much I weighed at the time. My best guess is around 220.

That evening, I began to change my life. I did not diet, I did not count out calories or carbs. I pay attention to them, but don't count out a day's worth. I don't ever use the word diet. It's all about lifestyle changes. Slowly, I started making little changes in what I ate and how much I moved. The first thing to go was my nightly bowl of Edie's Vanilla Bean Ice Cream with Dove Chocolate Sauce. That was my "aaahhhhh ..." food. After everyone went to bed, I put my feet up and sat in the quiet watching T.V. If I was out of ice cream, I went to Store 24 and bought some. At 11:00 p.m.

I replaced that ice cream with a bowl of oatmeal. Not so much fun at first, but in short time I looked forward to the oatmeal as much as I had the ice cream. Eventually, I just got out of the habit of needing anything at night. That's what it was - a habit. Not much easier to break than any other habit, but I did it. I made little changes at a time, replacing unhealthy food with good food. I focused more on what I ate than how much I ate.

The next thing was to get myself moving. My daughter was in high school at the time. I drove her to school, parked my car in the lot and walked the track. Ten minutes was all I could do. I did it every day and tried to add a lap or two a week and tried to pick up speed. After several weeks, I was doing 25 to 30 minutes and was ready to take on the Boulevard. I talk about moving more than I talk about formal exercise. I do work out now, but in the first year or so I focused on walking and moving.

During that summer I felt my clothes starting to fit better and by September I thought, "Wow, I'm shrinking." I was not dieting, not weighing myself - I was focused on getting healthy and fitness more than weight loss. Getting smaller was a bonus! The more I lost, the better I felt. The stronger I got, the more I wanted to keep moving.

Today I weigh about 140. I'm wearing a pair of Levis - size 8 - and sitting comfortably in them. When my daughter asks, "Why are you wearing my clothes?" I say, "Because I can." I love to work out. I have taken a rock climbing class and went parasailing for the first time a couple of years ago. I've discovered so many neat places in Gloucester on my walks. The most important thing is that I feel great. I don't have an ache or pain - not one. I'm strong and flexible. My blood pressure was 90/60 the last time I checked and I have a resting pulse of 60. I'm 57 and don't take medication for anything. Even the severity of my seasonal allergy symptoms has significantly decreased. People who are not overweight can also benefit from healthy eating and moving more for all kinds of reasons.

I still look at overweight people and see unhealthy people - and I want to tell them how good I feel; that if I can do it, they can, too. I believe that many people could eliminate the need for at least some medications if they ate healthy and moved more. I'm especially touched when I see young people carrying extra weight, looking so unhealthy. I want to shake them and tell them that it will be so much easier to get healthy now than after decades of bad habits.

I'll post my tips for eating and moving. Not everyone will like what I eat or activities I do - I kept trying different things, finding healthy food that I like and activities that I like. If you don't like something, you won't stick with it. I don't like running or spinning! I also found that I could learn to like certain foods - it doesn't take long. I'll post links to online articles that I find helpful and informative - I've read and learned an enormous amount about nutrition and fitness and feel I have sufficient knowledge to separate facts from quacks. I'd love to hear from people who have successfully changed their life and people who would like support and help to change theirs.

Let's do it!

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