When someone learns that I lost more than forty-five pounds at age fifty-four, one of the first questions they ask is, “Do you exercise a lot every day?”
The truth is, you cannot exercise away a bad diet. I do not go to the gym or take classes, or do any particular routine regularly. I do move with purpose throughout the day. Sitting at my desk for more than an hour is a rarity. Going for a long brisk walk when the weather is agreeable is by far my favorite exercise. More importantly, I incorporate lots of stair climbing, fast walking, and stretching into all of my waking hours.
For example, while washing dishes (I have a washer but rarely use it), I stand on one foot while doing side leg extensions with the other because I want to remain mindful of balance and posture. This often-repeated habit also builds core strength. Flexibility, balance, and strength can diminish with age and less activity. While sitting at my desk, I often extend and slowly lift one leg at a time, engaging my core and thighs’ muscles to do so. These are slow, controlled movements.
You will never see me circling the lot in search of the space closest to the building. I park far away from the door and walk briskly to the building. While I am in the store, I stride past all the processed, boxed, bagged, and canned foods. That is perhaps the most important “exercise” of all. We often enjoy a date night or evening at a restaurant with friends. These are not occasions to treat myself to every decadent dish on the menu. I often order a salad with a side of steamed vegetables, skip the bread and share a few bites of a dessert with Mr. Mickey. I eat small portions and drink lots of water every day. My daily diet includes many fresh vegetables and leafy greens (wash them, slice them and arrange them on a plate, no recipe required.) Fresh fruit, grains, nuts, and seeds are breakfast.
I do not “save” trips. If something needs to go upstairs, I take the steps two at a time and put it where it belongs. I clean my house, often and with gusto. My kitchen gets mopped daily. The bathrooms get cleaned daily. The rugs get vacuumed at least twice each week. The wood floors get dust mopped three or more times a week. Sitting in front of the TV has never been something I could do for more than a few minutes, so I don’t even have cable. I haven’t turned on my TV in a year.
I gained weight several times because I did not understand the power of nutrition and regular vigorous movement throughout my day. I was tricked into believing that aging meant gaining weight and having lots of aches and pains (even in my forties!).
My physical and psychological health was negatively affected by eating the wrong things and too much of them. I also moved through my days like a slug. I had no energy and rarely slept for more than three or four hours, so I was always tired. I weighed more than two hundred pounds in my early forties, so I understand when women tell me how difficult it is for them to make positive changes. Start slow. Go for a walk, even if it is in your home. Walk or dance around your apartment for ten minutes. Tomorrow, aim for fifteen minutes. Do not drink a soda today. Eat a raw vegetable and a piece of fruit today. Drink a full glass of water. Right now is always an excellent time to start taking care of yourself.
We each had one glass of wine on this date night, and we shared an appetizer-sized vegetarian pizza. The long jacket and coated jeans are old from Chico’s. The black top is by Covered Perfectly. I didn’t wear a necklace or scarf because enough was going on with shoes. They are old by French Connection.