Health

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I’ll never work(out) in this town again

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

My parents recently enrolled in a gym called Fitness 19 – named such because it’s open 19 hours a day.  Oh, Coloradans – you are so clever with your words!

Due to her recent surgeries, Mom hasn’t been to Fitness 19 in awhile – leaving her membership card available to yours truly.  My workouts on Saturday and Sunday were awesome – convincing me that I might actually acclimate to Mile High altitude, finally get the runner’s booty, and basically win the Nashville half-marathon that I’m registered for in April.  So last night, I went again.

I handed my (mom’s) card to the man behind the counter, and he scanned it.  “Thanks, Susan,” he said.  I smiled at him, and went to the magazine rack to choose some smut to read while on the treadmill.

“Wait – Susan?”

I froze.

“Susan, I think there’s a problem.”

I slowly turned around and faced him.

“Susan, when is your birthday?”

My mind raced.  “June 21.”

“What year?”

My mind raced even faster.  “Nineteen fifty-fii… SHOOT.”  I said it out loud.  “SHOOT.”

“You were not born in the fifties.”

And then, some bizarre calm overtook me.  Like a sociopath, I cooly stated, “You are right.”

He was serious.  “This is not your card.”

Again, conscienceless, “No.  It’s my mom’s.”

He was adamant.  “You cannot work out using another person’s membership.”

“Okay.”  Pregnant pause.  “But can I work out right now?”

He let me run for 40 very awkward minutes on the treadmill.  I ran like I have never run before.  It will be the last that Fitness 19 ever sees of me.

Taking up arms

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

The cruise ship is a battle zone, and I am at war.

I refuse to gain a pound a day.

But this is proving to take some serious combat.

I wake up each morning and put on my armor: a reasonable breakfast of one egg over easy, a small bowl of cereal, and an Americano.  But after that, it is clear to me that the ms Zaandam wants me guillotined.

Their battle cry:
Free food! All day!
Stuff yourself at the buffet!

Over and over.  And over.  And starts again at 11pm.

I am notoriously thrifty, hate to waste anything, and to hear that something is free makes me want to take full advantage.  You mean to tell me that I can order three appetizers, an entrée, AND dessert?  Get down on it, mama.

Thankfully, there is a gym at the front of the ship, and I’ve been running off 19,000 calories every day.  I have also taken on the identity of Elevator Hater, and walk the 8 flights of stairs at least 12 times each day.  In heels.

This is my martyrdom.  Because if you haven’t gorged yourself on mussels, bread, scallops, cheese trays, salmon, filet mignon, cookies, papaya, guacamole, pasta, and hot fudge brownie sundaes, washed it all down with wine and mojitos and margaritas, and then navigated 8 flights of stairs on a swaying ship in a cocktail dress and heels, then I’m sorry, my friend.

You do not know sacrifice.

Privileged

Monday, April 27th, 2009

I did it.  And it was the worst best thing I’ve ever done.

I have started this post at least a dozen times, and am having a hard time putting into words what happened on Saturday.

I could tell you about waking up at 4:30am, and stressing out in a traffic jam on the way to the race.

I could tell you about the last minute visit to a Porta-Potty that had no toilet paper.

I could say that miles 1-5 were fun, and 5-8 were less fun, and 8-9 was really tough, but 9-10 was easier, and from 10 on, it was sheer agony.

I could talk about the heat, and the people passing out right and left.

I could give you the amazing finish times of all of my friends, who I am so ridiculously proud of.

I could report that I came in 8,449th out of the 22,749 finishers, and 3,987th out of the 14,505 women.

Or, perhaps my favorite tidbit of information: I could talk about the friend-who-will-never-be-named who is so hardcore, she PEED HER PANTS in the last mile so she wouldn’t have to stop.

But I think that this is my biggest take-away: what an enormous privilege.  To have legs, to have a body that works, to have the opportunity to train for something far more physically taxing than I have ever attempted before.  To have the ability to run.

Even in the heat.  Even when it’s not fun.  Even when I didn’t get the runner’s booty that I hoped for.  I am ABLE to run.  Not everyone is.

And this girl is getting busy getting grateful.

I am so glad I did it.  I am so glad it’s over.  And I guess I can’t deny it anymore: once one has run 13.1 miles, she is officially a “runner.”

More to come in the next few days…

Weightless

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

Yesterday, I threw away my scale.

Just like that. Trashed. Into the dumpster.

I am a compulsive weight-checker, always keeping tabs on my poundage, and consequently tempted to feel either good or bad, happy or sad, proud or ashamed, jubilant or angry. It’s amazing how a great day can be ruined by a number – a NUMBER – like an ever-shifting scorecard for whatever level of healthful diligence I have demonstrated.

In the last few months, I’ve found myself increasingly frustrated at the number on the scale RISING – despite my ability to run further than I could ever run before, despite my capacity to carry on a conversation throughout a 60 minute jog, despite my clothes fitting the same, despite my energy and improved attitude. In the face of all of these accomplishments, the scale says that I weigh 10 lbs. more than I did before I started running last fall.

And for a girl who has been a dieter since age 11, this is traumatizing news.

Miranda has been telling me for years to just throw the damn thing out. She would get outwardly angry when she would see it in the corner of my bathroom, and, knowing the emotional stranglehold the scale has on me, would order me to get rid of it. But for me, to get rid of the scale would be to give up control – and then, maybe, to expand, expand, expand like bread dough.

At first, I thought that I would just take the scale and stash it beneath my bathroom sink – out of sight, out of mind, right? Wrong. For me, keeping my scale would be like staying friends with an ex-boyfriend on Facebook – an unhelpful temptation “just to check.” Sorry boys.

And sorry scale.

It’s time for a new chapter in my life – one in which I have no idea what I weigh.

Who knew that tossing out my scale would be one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever done?

Moving "massage" from a want to a need

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

Our bodies don’t always do what we want them to. This is terrifying.

For as long as I can recall, I have carried tension and stress in my neck and shoulders. I remember being 6-years old and going to see a chiropractor – I was complaining about back pain in kindergarten. As I’ve gotten older and my life has been filled with adult responsibilities, questions, and anxiety, the pain has only increased.

I tell myself to relax, to breathe deeply, to roll my head down to my chest and stretch out the muscles, willing myself to let go of the tension. But my body just doesn’t respond – it doesn’t listen. I walk around in a state of permanent rigidity and strain. This pain is exacerbated by repetitive movements that I do daily: typing, playing guitar, holding a phone to my ear. It’s hard to know how to change my lifestyle in order to improve my discomfort.

Recently, the pain has been spreading. I’ve been having headaches, and my jaw feels permanently locked and tense. Again, I tell myself to unwind, loosen up, calm down… but my body refuses to comply. I want to take out my muscles and stretch them like rubber bands, forcing the kinks to be pulled back to a healthy form.

Last night I went to the store to look for muscle relaxants. One time, we gave muscle relaxants to our dog, and she peed all over the big comfy chair – but frankly, this is a risk I was willing to take. I asked the pharmacist if they had anything over the counter, and she looked at me like I had asked for cocaine. “No,” she said. “Those are available by prescription only.” So I found the next best thing – Excedrin Back & Body – and took 2 before bed.

This morning, I still hurt.

How can I force my body into submission? I wish that I could will away the pain, or refuse to let stress take up residence in my muscles. But the body has a mind of its own – and unfortunately, it’s not MY mind. The body and the brain are divided by the Great Wall of China. And it’s a scary thing to feel out of control.

Freedom and balance

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

I was in the dairy section of the grocery store last night when a crisis hit me like a rake to the face. Reaching for my usual quart of Dannon Light & Fit vanilla yogurt, I noticed three terrible words: “Great New Taste!”

What.

Why do they need to go changing my favorite yogurt? I don’t need it to have a “great new taste” – I loved the old taste. And! AND! What’s worse: it has increased from 80 calories per serving to 110 calories per serving. I DO NOT LIKE THIS. This is almost as bad as the day that they started packaging Tampax in bright orange wrappers – an absolute betrayal. How is one expected to be inconspicuous with something orange – the color of panic devices, like flares and Coast Guard buoys and the terrorist attack level “High”?

It’s not quite as bad as the day I found out that they no longer produce Burt’s Bees Lip Shimmer in “Coffee”. But still. Completely unjust.

I come from a long line of calorie counters – it’s in my genes. At various points in my life, I have been absolutely ruled by the regimented balancing act of caloric consumption/expulsion. Last summer, I achieved what should have been a dieter’s nirvana, reaching the lowest weight of my life and fitting into the tiniest pants I’ve ever owned; however, I still felt a panic and a desperate need for control. I still saw my pipe-cleaner arms to be flabby, my thighs to be trunk-like, and my flat stomach to be completely unworthy of a bathing suit.

I couldn’t relish the accomplishment of it all. I was too busy worrying about gaining an ounce.

Since then, I have considerably loosened my tight rein on calorie counting. While my mind feels a little bit freer, my body is also a little bit heavier. What’s a girl to do?

I want to live in freedom from the oppression of low self-esteem, terrible body image, calorie counting, exercise obsession, and general control freakage. I’m not there yet. But I want to be. And for me, I think that “freedom” is going to have to mean weighing a few pounds more than I know that I could weigh. It’s going to mean not beating myself up over my caloric failures of the day when I crawl into bed at night. It’s going to mean recognizing and living out a healthy balance of enjoying food, and being active, and getting enough sleep, and having a glass of wine if I want one, but not having too many.

It’s going to mean eating the extra 30 calories of yogurt. And it’s going to mean not flipping out about it.

Body talk

Monday, June 9th, 2008

This summer, I am reaching a milestone: I have maintained a healthy weight for 5 years.

Most people in my current everyday life did not know me between the years of 2000-2002, when I gained not the freshman 15, but literally, close to the freshman 50. I moved away from home, had access to a surprisingly palatable college cafeteria, went to Taco Bell almost every night, and hated to exercise. Period. It was that simple – and before I knew it, my face and my fingers and my waistline had ballooned up to form a person I couldn’t recognize. I was completely uneducated about health, and calories-in versus calories-out. I quickly spiraled into a depression, and hated myself for being fat. And until I finally got my act together and was empowered to do something about it, I lived a reclusive and self-loathing existence.

Through the difficult, old-fashioned method of decreasing my calories and increasing my exercise, my body is now very, very different than what it once was. But my mind is the same. I look in the mirror and criticize my form. I live in fear of the number on the scale creeping up. I feel guilty every single time I eat a cookie. I exercise as punishment for over-consuming. I beat myself up for what I am, and what I am not.

And I know that I am not the only one.

Due to the media or the culture or the devil, our minds have a skewed expectation of what we should be, and what we should look like. While I know that it affects certain men, I am confident in saying that women have taken on the lion’s share of this curse.

I have heard some of my most beautiful friends refer to their bodies as “disgusting,” “heinous,” and “foul.” I have used similar words in reference to myself, too. This both angers me and breaks my heart. Everywhere we look, there are cruel reminders to hate our legs, to hate our hips, to hate our _____. You name it. It feels like a hopeless situation and a vicious cycle – will it ever end? What’s it going to take?

I honestly believe that it’s going to take an entire generation of women saying, “Enough is enough.” Changing our way of thinking. Doing the hard work of taking each negative thought captive, and transforming our self-talk. Vowing to never use harsh and hateful words to describe our bodies. Step by step, learning to love and care for what we have been given. Refusing to teach our daughters to hate their fleshy arms or stomachs or thighs.

But before an entire generation can do this, it has to start with individuals.

This is my hope and my prayer for myself. I do not want to spend the next 50 years condemning the body that is so faithfully getting me through this life. I want to be grateful to it, and take good care of it, and find contentment in less than perfection. Wouldn’t life be easier if I could be kind to myself? If you could be kind to yourself?

I’ve always known that thinking highly of oneself is vanity. But recently, I have been realizing that thinking lowly of oneself is another form of vanity. Because in either case, we are giving ourselves too much credit.

A very fragile ecosystem

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

It is truly embarrassing to hear the words, “Annie, please don’t blow your nose on our embossed napkins.” But today, this was my reality. A co-worker caught me with my face buried in a company napkin, and then politely requested that I use something other than their expensive serviette as a depository for my snot.

Allergies are alive and well here in Nashville, and I am fighting the good fight. I partake of imitation Zyrtec or Claritin, and occasionally the miracle drug Singulair. However, since Singulair has been linked to suicide, and I can be depressed enough on my own thankyouverymuch, I try to keep my usage down only to when I wheeze.

Yes. I do wheeze. It’s incredibly sexy.

I am allergic to the down comforter on my bed, but I desperately need its warmth at night. As the girl with the self-diagnosed and self-named CHAT (Cold Hands All the Time), my extremities would freeze and fall off if I didn’t sleep under the insulation of goose-down. The trade-off: I wake up with puffy eyes and a scratchy throat.

My apartment is freakishly cold, though. I’m sure that I will be grateful for this come the sweltering southern summer – a seasonal experience that I am dreading with every cell in my body – but for now, I wake up and it’s 50 degrees in my bedroom. I refuse to turn on the heat, since a) it’s getting up to the high 70’s in the afternoons these days and therefore, the use of heat seems so wrong, and b) I’m a cheapskate.

Maybe I’m having an allergic reaction to the humidity in the air. I could solve this by turning on the AC, but again, see letter b above. I have told you of my obsession with washcloths; in my apartment, it takes 5 days for a washcloth to dry. I suppose that the possibility exists that there is mildew flying around in my air, and slowly rotting my lungs.

And attracting COCKROACHES.

This morning, I saw the second cockroach of my life. The first was about 2 months ago, crawling across my kitchen floor. I had never seen anything like it, and reacted in the only way I knew how: with a piercing shriek that rattled the windows and surely woke the neighbors. This time, I was more prepared. I karate-chopped that roach with a sturdy flip-flop, and killed it until it was extremely dead. Take that, HAB.

All of this is to say that I cannot find balance for my body, for my home, for my health. And my reality now includes cockroaches. And I just wanted you all to know.

Kick-start my heart

Monday, March 10th, 2008

In the spirit of the ever-elusive hottness, I have decided that I have gone long enough without exercising. It is time to recommit. Never would I have guessed that this was going to be the last time I ever moved a muscle, but sadly, I have been confronted with the truth that deep down, in my corest of cores, I am positively slothful.

The Big Trip, which encompassed the days between September 10 and January 4, was a glorious lethargy, a near-4-month hiatus from all things health related. Drink wine at least 5 nights/week? Check. Eat nothing but cheese? Check. Quit exercise cold-turkey? Yes, please.

The result was a gaining of 12 pounds, and I know that it was precisely 12 pounds, because I keep an eye on the scale. I watched each pound as it schmooped itself onto my body, and before I knew it, I didn’t have a single pair of pants that fit me. This didn’t stop me, though, because believe it or not, it is quite pleasant to do nothing but consume wine and cheese. And there are always skirts, right?

Eventually, I landed here in Nashville, and for the past 2 months, have been getting myself back onto a healthy diet. I’ve been calorie counting, and eating from the food pyramid, and trying not to eat too many brownies. This has helped get the number on the scale back down to where it should be, but ultimately, my body has been crying out for a challenge. My muscles have atrophied, but more depressingly, my spirits have been at a low that can only be attributed to a lack of endorphines.

So, when I found out that there is a gym in the building at work, I told myself that now was the time. I signed up.

It’s an amazing thing to feel muscles begin to work again. They remember! They remember how to be strong, even if they’re not back to fighting form yet. My bum hip is crying out, but as I stretch it and work it, it’s feeling better. My lungs feel positively mighty. My heart can’t quite keep up with my will yet, but the day will come when I’ll be back to my mega-workouts.

This is the only body I get, flaws and all. I choose to treat it well. This is my recommitment.

Resolute

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

Listen up, Pounds,
I knew you would show up – it was inevitable. Throughout my life, you have come and gone as you have pleased, but The Big Trip in particular has been made of conditions favorable to you: travel, friends, 4,000 miles of sitting, delicious food, celebratory drink, and a complete and utter lack of routine or discipline. A few of you were welcome for a little while, but now? Really, Pounds? There are too many of you.

You have taken up residence wherever you have seen fit: a little here in the thigh, a little there in the waist. You never asked if I welcomed your company; you simply arrived, and then invited your friends. You have been sneaky – never fully crowding me out of my clothes, but just making them fit differently. And I did not pay a ridiculously high price for jeans only to have them optimistically tugged and stretched.

I have always had a love/hate relationship with you. With one halting hand at the end of a stiff arm, and the other beckoning you to come hither, obviously you may have been confused. I have sent you mixed messages, and for this, I apologize.

But how could I have acted any other way? How could I ever resist you? You have come cloaked in chocolately-fried-goodness, and have been effortlessly washed down in a deluge of red wine. We have had a love affair every night for weeks, but I have been dumbfounded and irritated to find you still at my side (and on my side) the morning after. You are annoying. You cramp my style. I do not want to share my young, single, glamorous existence with your vexatious kind. Get out of my bed, and off of my body.

Sorry, Pounds. It was fun while it lasted, but your day is over. I will destroy you with an arsenal of aerobic activity. One or two of you can stay, but the rest of you: prepare to perish.

See ya, wouldn’t wanna be ya,
Annie