Last night I mentioned becoming an unhealthy vegetarian…Its really amazing how easy that was to do.
Two and a half years ago Tina and I decided we would eat vegan, avoid processed foods and not eat sugar. We agreed to do it for 6 weeks. We ended up following this diet for 4 months. We both felt great, healthy, energetic and of course lost weight. At no point did we plan to remain vegan. we thought it would be a good kick start to healthy living.
During that 4 month period I was able to give up my multiple pots a day coffee habit and Tina quit drinking sodas. We convinced ourselves we had the bad habits of unhealthy eating conquered.
I did know I wanted to remain vegetarian and Tina (with the exception of Thanksgiving turkey) agreed she would remain vegetarian too. We slowly started adding foods back into our diet. We intended to keep it under control…we really did. We started justifying foods we had done so well without for 4 months.
Needless to say we did not keep it under control. Fried foods snuck back into our diet, sugars took control of our taste buds and the convenience of processed foods made it hard to say no.
We realized we had made a mistake and both agreed we wanted to return to the diet we were on for those 4 months.
It had been so easy to give all the unhealthy stuff up…doing it again should be a piece of cake (I really couldn’t resist throwing the cake reference in!)
But it wasn’t…no matter how much we talked about it. No matter how determined we were…we couldn’t seem to find our way back.
Finally…the stars aligned, and on May 25, 2017 (2 years and 4 months after we started adding foods back into our diet) we returned to a vega diet. Once again we stopped eating sugar and processed foods. We both realize the mistakes we made 2 years ago and we are policing ourselves to make sure we avoid the same mistakes this time.
No matter how good something is for us…we seem to migrate back to the unhealthy.
OK…I’m speaking for myself here. I know there are people in this world that manage to eat “right” and live healthy lifestyles without falling off the health train. I am not one of those people. Over the years I have allowed my own rationalization, other people and (to be honest) convenience to lead me astray.
However, there are some unhealthy habits I have never returned to in the last 10 years. For example, I’ve never picked up another cigarette. I haven’t drank a soda in 9 years and for the most part I’ve stayed away from red-meat.
The first couple years of changing my diet I remained faithful to not eating hamburgers, especially fast food. But, if I found myself at a luncheon and the only dish available had beef in it…well I would eat it. I created a theory, If I have good intentions yet the waiter makes a mistake and serves me the “negative” food item…well the calories don’t count! Right?
It is amazing how I can rationalize eating things that I know are not “good for me.” I can decide that one donut couldn’t possibly have that many calories. I mean look at it…it’s so little and innocent. If I eat veggie pizza it will certainly be better for me than meat pizza…I didn’t even get extra cheese.
There are times that knowing I’ve eaten better today than I did in the past will simply have to do. Sometimes that is the best I can do.
When I walk into work and someone dropped donuts off in the kitchen for all to enjoy…I consider it a huge win if I walk on by and don’t give it another thought. So many times I’ve given myself permission to just eat one. Do you know what happens when I “just eat one?” Its a lie…I go back and eat 2, 3, maybe even 4!
I have also faced my challenges with exercise. I love to exercise. I enjoy the energy and the overall positive self image that comes with exercise. But I’ve experienced times that negative self talk tries to convince me to stay on the couch. I’ve also experienced old age. After running for several years I started to develop arthritis in my knees. After a couple minor surgeries on my knees my Orthopedic doctor highly suggested I give up running and look into cycling. I really struggled with that idea. I didn’t think cycling would be challenging enough (by the way it is plenty challenging). I honestly believed the only way I could get a decent workout was through the cardio I experienced when running.
I tried bootcamps, you still have to run. Even though the instructor told me I could do other exercises while my classmates ran, my competitive nature would not agree. So I would run, then I’d be in pain, then I would get depressed and want to give up on all exercise.
This search for a healthy life has certainly been a roller coaster ride. Over the last two years I’ve learned it is possible to be an unhealthy vegetarian…Its true. There are still plenty of “comfort foods” a person can eat as a vegetarian. Trust me, I found them all. It is so much easier to tell myself that big ol’ bowl of broccoli and cheese soup is fine because I’m not eating meat. Well needless to say, with that line of thinking my roller coaster car flew off the tracks.
There was a time in my life that I ate 2 – 3 meals a day at fast food restaurants and smoked a pack and a half of cigarettes a day. I had high cholesterol, that I was convinced couldn’t be controlled without medication, because I just knew it was genetic. If that wasn’t enough my doctor had started testing me for type II diabetes. I was certainly on a path of destruction and I didn’t even realize I could do anything different.
10 years ago this past March I quit smoking. I had smoked for over 30 years. When I laid the cigarettes down for the last time I began to eat everything in the house. Not only did I eat junk food and fattening foods, I ate till I was so stuffed it hurt to breathe.
I finally decided this simply was not going to work. And the journey began…
I started walking. Just a few months earlier I was afraid to do the one mile fun walk at the Susan G Komen 5k for fear I couldn’t make it. But I started slow….1/4 mile, 1/2 mile, 1 mile. Every morning I got up before the sun, went to the local park and walked my pup Freckles. My plan was, if I get him into the habit of walking he won’t let me sleep in…and it worked.
Eventually I started changing my eating habits. I was feeling so good I decided I wanted to treat myself better. I quit eating red meat. I started reading a book called The Eat-Clean Diet by Tosca Reno. I learned how to eat foods and cook foods that were good for me. I learned to eat spinach!
I soon got bored with walking, it just wasn’t challenging enough. I started participating in boot camps and I started running. When I started running (despite being an athlete in school I always hated running) I couldn’t complete a 1/4 mile without stopping to walk. But eventually I started running more and more. I set a goal to run a 5k the next year at the Susan G Komen. I would run in memory of my Aunt Kathleen who I had recently lost to breast cancer.
That entire year, the thought of my aunt’s struggle to fight cancer, got me through the pain of training. If she could fight so hard and be so tough fighting against such a horrible disease, then something as minor as sore legs should not deter me.
I ran that 5k with a sign, honoring my aunt, on the back of my shirt. As I climbed the final hill, headed toward the finish line, exhausted and emotional, a lady tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Kathleen would be so proud.” I cried the rest of the way to the finish line. Tears of pain, emotion, love, excitement, memories of Kathleen all drained from my eyes. I had met my goal of running 3.1 miles and knew my life was changing for the better.
A lot has changed since I smoked that last cigarette. Over the next couple days I hope to share the rest of my journey to a healthier life. I hope you will stop back by to read the rest of the story.
Several things happened today that brought to mind thankfulness. Its amazing how much more observant I can be when I have a reason to be focused.
What I’ve decided to share tonight is my amazingly early workout this morning. I joined a boot camp group, at the invitation of a friend, at 4:30AM.
I actually love early morning workouts. I enjoy the energy I feel after getting up early and pushing myself to the point of noodle arms!
What I hate is waking up early!
I frequently try to get up early for workouts but I’ve learned if someone isn’t waiting for me at a predetermined location…I will never roll out of bed.
I am grateful that my friend invited me to join her this morning and I’m also thankful that I am able to exercise. I know so many people that are fighting disease, disability and/or other mental or physical challenges that I realize I am fortunate to have the physical ability to be active.
So guess what I have decided to do 3 days a week? Yep! I’m going to be working out at 4:30AM.
Am I crazy…yep! But I’m also excited about this new adventure and grateful for the opportunity!
Once a month I call bingo for a group of “older adults.” Each month we celebrate whoever is having a birthday. This month Norma stood up and told me she recently turned 80, but felt 60. One of the other ladies quickly chimed in that Norma ran a marathon on Saturday.
I walked toward Norma to question her about the marathon. She corrected the other woman and assured me she ran a 5k, not a marathon. Still….she’s 80!
Another woman stood beside Norma and told me she is the same age as Norma, but looks much older. I did not agree with her (that would have been rude!) but she was right. My mom is part of this Senior Citizen group. I often wonder how much longer Mom will be able to live independently because so many things are “wrong” with her. Mom is 4 years younger than Norma.
The more I talked to Norma the more I realized her youth was a result of her attitude. She is determined to stay young and active as long as she can.
I understand many people are unfortunate to acquire crappy genetics and some people have the misfortune of being involved in a physically damaging accident. However, many people, many many people simply choose to be lazy. How many of us reached middle age and found our rear ends attached to the recliner and our hand to the remote?
I was lucky to realize my future would look bleak if I did not make some changes. At the age of 43 I quit smoking and replaced that addiction with the addiction of exercise. Along with exercise came the desire to eat healthier. I will be the first to admit I continue to struggle with food but my new bad is so much better than my old bad.
Next month I will turn 53 (the age my dad died of an unexpected massive heart attack). At the age of 50 my life long friend and I ran a half marathon in celebration of our birthdays. This past Sunday I completed my first sprint triathlon. June 4th I will complete a 100 mile bike ride.
What will I do next? I don’t know but I hope I’m just like Norma when I grow up!
When will I learn?
For several years I was exercising and not losing weight. In January Tina and I chose to go completely vegan for 6 weeks. This included, the exclusion of processed foods. I lost a total of 17 pounds.
We ended up eating this way for 4 months. We both felt better and enjoyed the diet. Food tasted better and we were both healthier.
The slippery slope started when we decided we could add a few things back into the diet. Recently I’ve been struggling. I’ve gained weight and it seems impossible to stop eating sweets. I’ve been very frustrated.
I’ve upped my exercise and continue to gain or at least not lose. A few days ago the epiphany hit me….it doesn’t matter how much I exercise if I keep putting crap in my mouth.
So I’ve chosen to restart the vegan diet tomorrow. I’ve chosen to eat the foods that will help me lose weight and be healthier….wish me luck!