In the Sept. 24, 1991, issue of Family Circle magazine, I am featured in an article with the title, “New shape, new degree: I’m ready to shine.”
I was 39 years old and had lost 50 pounds in six months by running on the sand in Myrtle Beach, S.C. I was flown to New York and given the royal treatment — new hairdo, manicure, and a dazzling wardrobe.
Exactly three years later, I was right back where I started. I had gained back the 50 pounds, plus 10 more.
Well, 23 years later, I have another story to tell.
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Back in 1991, I was a mother of three small children and getting a master’s degree, which left little or no time for “me.” When I say “me,” I mean the spiritual, soulful, as well as physical “me.”
My transformation was short-lived because I had not tended to the deeper issues around my weight and I was not realistic about what I must do to actually take care of myself,
Finding your purpose, being true to yourself, and having a spiritual connection has a lot to do, perhaps everything to do, with losing weight and keeping it off.
How is this so?
A steady, persistent search for a daily practice that included all aspects of my being — mind, body and spirit — is what turned the tide for me.
For six years now, I have been losing weight slowly but surely.
I have now lost 55 pounds and I am 10 pounds from my “ideal weight.” It was slow going at first, and that is just fine. I will talk about the benefits of slow weight loss in a bit.
What I want to address first and foremost is this idea of a “practice.” The word “practice” tends to be associated with Eastern religions and thought. For instance, one talks about a yoga practice, or a meditation practice. Yes, my daily practice does involve both yoga and meditation, but it involves many other things also, such as hiking.
I discovered that a daily practice simply means tending to every part of your being, every day. I realized that marginalizing important parts of myself, such as my love of — and need for direct contact with — nature, putting off time in the woods until the weekend, gradually built up until I became so unhappy, and malnourished, that I overate to compensate.
It wasn’t food I was craving. It was a full, satisfying life. A life of my own design.
A lifestyle that served me — mind, body and soul.
A practice allows you to put into place all of the things that your whole being requires — your perfect lifestyle.
My practice began to develop in 2008, the year of my 25th wedding anniversary. I was taking a course for my job as a “wilderness counselor” in the mountains of Oregon during the whole month of May.
I reasoned that this time away from regular routines would give me the chance to develop new habits. I would take a hike in the woods each morning followed by yoga. And, I would eat only raw foods.
This combination was great for weight loss. I began the downward spiral. And, I fit into my wedding dress for the renewal of our vows that November.
The most significant change and enhancement of my practice took place a year ago, when I began to plan for my 60th birthday. I devised a fitness program based on a book that I believed held the secret to my ultimate success: “Younger Next Year For Women,” by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge.
The motivation for the dramatic leap I was about to take into fitness was driven by something other than weight loss. It was my numbers.
My blood pressure was dangerously high. My cholesterol was high, and I was also having issues with leukopenia — a low white cell count.
Stress was probably the culprit. I had recently made a big move from Harrisburg to State College, my mom had died and I started a new job. It was time to fine-tune my “practice” to include a serious game-changer. I called it 60@60.
The main principle in “Younger Next Year” is that in order to slow down, and even reverse the aging process, people must exercise 60 minutes per day, six days a week.
And, not just by taking a walk. It is important to raise your heart rate, too. This commitment seemed impossible.
It took me three months, from mid-December to mid-March, to plan, or “train” for my 60@60, which was this: 60 minutes of exercise, six days a week for 60 days.
My birthday is May 10, so the start date was March 11.
What did I plan? I planned my exercise routine, the timing and my food. I tried a variety of sports and fitness classes until I had the combination I felt I could live with and even enjoy. Two nights a week of Zumba, two nights of yoga, one day off. Three-hour bike hikes or trail hiking on Saturdays and Sundays.
As spring advanced, I added commuting to work on my bike, 30 minutes each way.
My diet was actually pretty simple. Eat all the fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds I wanted.
Sparing no expense, I treated myself to the best organic berries and fruits I could find. I didn’t spend any more money, because I was eating so much less. I cut out pizza for Lent, and avoided potatoes, rice and bread. Go for color, rather than white.
When March 11 arrived, I was ready. The three-legged stool of “Younger Next Year” is exercise, nutrition and connection/commitment. The last one, connection/commitment has to do with being more involved in family and community life, not just work life.
I upped the ante here by joining a church choir and trying out for a play. I also got serious about a new business that I wanted to start — purpose, calling.
On May 10, I had a yearly physical in celebration of my 60@60. Good news! Blood pressure was “almost” normal, cholesterol down and leukopenia not present. And, I had lost 27 pounds since I began “training.”
I have to get up pretty early in the morning to do all of my daily practice: yoga, meditation, walk in the woods, readings from sacred texts, and 60 minutes of exercise. But I do, because it all helps me to take off weight, keep it off, and enjoy my life.
As for taking your time with weight loss, it’s not very sexy. “Lose 20 pounds in 30 days!” is the screaming headline.
As for “plateaus?” They are considered a bad thing, but I swear by them.
I have observed that my body likes to have a “maintenance” period. After 10 pounds or so, there is a time to just keep the weight stabilized.
A certain confidence builds with this maintenance. And, an understanding of what kinds of foods are helping or hurting.
When it comes to the holidays, I pick a weight that I want to keep during the whole period from Thanksgiving through New Year’s. Instead of gaining, I maintain.
It is very gratifying to take such good care of myself in this way.
If you are in your mid-life, chances are some of the habits from your past have caught up with you, just as they did with me. Bad knees from being overweight was one of my issues.
But, it’s not too late to be younger next year.
Is it hard? Yes, it is.
But, think of it as a practice, a whole lifestyle that you are employing, not just a weight loss program.
This, to me, is the secret.
It’s not about the weight, it’s about what you are doing with your life. And, how your dreams are served through honoring your very being.