Today was a better day.
My brother-in-law recovered his missing cat, which was quite a birthday present. It was a beautiful day. I did a Body Combat workout this afternoon. I taught three people how to crochet. I talked to my mom for a looooong time. Lots of good things.
Mom and I talked about the whole “getting in shape” thing. And I told her probably the same things I’ve told her a million times before, some of the same things I mentioned yesterday. When you have a lifetime of bad habits to correct, you have to make an entire life change. I also got some clarification on her “numbers don’t matter” post. She wasn’t just talking about the numbers on the scale. She was talking about all the numbers. The calorie counts and the minutes on the elliptical and the reps on the weight machines. She wanted to do the things that felt right to her.
I say AMEN to that. Sort of.
The numbers still don’t matter. There are two general types of people in the “getting healthier” arena. There are the numbers people and the freelance people. Numbers people love to focus on the numbers. They are highly analytical and keep notes on everything they eat and every exercise they do. That is one way to do it. Freelancers hate numbers. They only seem to discourage because they never seem to equal the amount of work being done. Counting calories makes them feel dumb.
The method that works with freelancers is more artistic than analytical. It’s about perception. They do what they do because it feels right. It makes them feel better, accomplished, energized, etc. The numbers don’t come into it because there is almost no direct correlation between numbers and results for them. The numbers are arbitrary, but the boost in stamina and the excuse to shop for smaller clothes shows them all the progress they need.
And this is where the “sort of” comes in. A person spends their entire life doing what feels right to them. They eat food that they think is healthy. They aren’t glued to the couch all the time. They don’t think of themselves as having an unhealthy lifestyle. But at after a while, they cannot deny that they are unhealthy. Either a doctor or a friend or family or their own reflection says this isn’t working. What feels right isn’t good for them. The trick then isn’t to point to a bunch of arbitrary numbers and say BECOME NUMBER SLAVE. The trick is to change the perception of “right.”
I know I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. The brain is a powerful tool and you can use it to trick your body into being healthier. Forget everything you know about eating healthy because the healthy you grew up with simply isn’t. See a nutritionist and learn what foods are good for you and why. The benefits of foods vary based on lifestyle. If everyone ate like Olympic athletes without the benefit of Olympic athlete workouts, everyone would be morbidly obese. Yet no one can call them unhealthy. If you are on the low end for physical activity, then your body isn’t using the carbs you’re eating and simply turns them into fat to be used later. Your body doesn’t know that you aren’t going to be starving over winter due to lack of game and grain. All it knows is that it’s getting stuff it isn’t using now but could use in an emergency. Fat is the lifeboat of the body. The body saw Titanic and clings to the lifeboats just in case of icebergs.
So perception. Freelancers want to do stuff because it feels right. When Freelancers want to get healthy, they have to change what right means. Right means craving almonds instead of potato chips, putting spinach in everything, and finding new ways to make chicken breast taste like anything else. Right means being about to brag about your workout instead of feeling guilty that you skipped it.
F*ck counting calories. I am aware that some things are bad for me because they have a lot of calories. So instead of calculating how many lattes I can have before I need to add a mile onto my walk, I rarely drink them. Same thing with donuts and chocolate and popcorn and potatoes and pasta and all the other foods that through research I have found to be bad for my lifestyle. I don’t care how many calories I burned on my workout or what the scale says. No machine can accurately calculate the former and the latter has more to do with where I am in the month than anything else.
Army Analogy: When I joined the Army, I weighed in at 108 lbs. Was I healthy? NO. I was underweight and fat, and no that isn’t a contradiction. When I left Basic Training, I weighed 120 lbs. Was I fat? NO. I was fit for the first time in my life. Throughout my 20s, the less I weighed, the less healthy I was because I was losing muscle and gaining fat (the latter weighs less than the former). Entering my 30s, my body is starting to change gears, because that’s what bodies do. It makes me glad that I started eating healthier five years ago. I don’t have as much adjusting to do in that department. Exercise is a whole other problem, but I’m working through it. That bragging thing is paramount to my success, actually.
So Freelancers, use you’re artistic side to make your lifestyle change. Leave the numbers to other people. Just keep these things in mind:
- Portion control: Small plates help you control how much you’re eating. Healthy food is only healthy in the correct quantities. Don’t go back for seconds. EVER.
- Ignoring numbers isn’t the same as being unaware of them. Know what things to avoid entirely, like high sugar/salt content, complex carbs, starches, and animal fats. It’s often a lot easier to avoid bad foods altogether than try to figure out how much is allowable in your diet.
- Just because we aren’t counting doesn’t mean we don’t keep track. You don’t have to detail every ounce of peas or every sit up, but making a note of what you ate (and how you felt afterwards) and when you worked out can be helpful and encouraging.
- Keep things interesting. Yes, chicken breast is a permanent fixture on your menu, but it doesn’t have to be boring. Get NO SODIUM spice mixes, like Italian herbs, Chinese 5-spice, Cajun spice, and curry powder. Explore the wide range of microwave steamed veggies (just avoid anything with sauces). Buddy and I hit the broccoli section pretty hard. Veggies are GOOD for you. And no, potatoes are not veggies.
- Have a Buddy. This person is not your babysitter. This person is also working toward health goals. This person will share with you all the failings of her week and then listen to yours without judgment. This person will cajole and complain during the Zumba class that neither of you really wanted to go to, but thought might be fun to give a chance. This person will be accountable to you and you to her. This person may have to be imaginary.
Freelancers, you will do the right thing not because the numbers say it is right, but because you have decided that it is right.
There, I think I’m done soapboxing for tonight. I’d like to thank my Mom for listening to my BS tonight since talking to her helped me clarify some thoughts I’ve been having on this subject. For those of you who think you have it bad, I want you to know that my Mom is doing everything you are on an artificial hip. That’s struggle. As always, Mom, you are my inspiration in so much of my life.