Saturday, February 02, 2008

Never Alone

Health has been a huge focus for me over the last few years. I'm only 45 but I have to make some big changes in order to be productive and active for the rest of my life.

On February 3rd, 2005, I discovered I had a big problem at the doctor's office. After not weighing myself for 3 years, I had gained a grand total of 53 pounds, bringing me a couple pounds too close to 300. I had known that I had polycystic ovary syndrome for a long time and that the hormonal problems made it hard to conceive a child or lose weight, but I didn't know until then that it also prediposes me to insulin resistence, which turns into diabetes over time.

So, the doctor recommended regular exercise. I tried Curves with a neighbor for a few months with no results, but I had a good time working out with Tracy. Dennis and I joined the YMCA afterwards and I began sporadically visiting the treadmill room until I realized how sick of the treadmill I was. And my feet and ankles started to bother me. In the fall, Lisa came to live with us. Lisa was a swimmer who went to the pool on MSU campus about two or three times a week. I went once with her to the pool at our Y and was hooked. I started a slow breaststroke and by Christmas, I was able to go several laps without stopping. I also bought a bathroom scale. I lost five pounds and kept it off.

In 2006, I found out that I wasn't going to lose weight by swimming endlessly. I had to work on increasing my speed and challenging myself. It was hard, but I started to swim freestyle at least a lap everytime I went. By the end of the year, I had lost five more pounds. But I found out that I was diabetic. And had sleep apnea. I began low doses of metformin.

In 2007, I started to go to cardio and some other really fun workout classes. I was a klutz, but I felt better everytime I went. But by summer, I didn't continue the workouts and found my blood pressure rising and having to start taking medication for that, too. And had to increase my metformin dosage. Although I had lost five more pounds in six months, it wasn't making a turn around in my diabetes situation.

While visiting my sister in California last October, I started Weight Watchers. Addressing my eating habits has been a much more effective way to deal with my health, as I've lost 15 pounds in three months. My blood pressure has been normal every day (I have my own monitor) and my blood glucose is well in control. My bathroom scale has been smiling at me, letting me know that I am now 250 this morning. I went swimming three times this week. Yesterday at the pool, I swam 15 laps, 10 of them freestyle. I swam them in half the time it took me two years ago, too.

Weight Watchers has helped me set sensible goals and kept me accountable. I go to meetings every week, to plan good eating strategies. I get to talk with people who have the same problems that I do, and also with people who have lost 40, 50, even over a 100 pounds. It's a positive and encouraging environment. I look forward to going every week, even when I haven't had success that week. I need to be there.

My current goal is not eating fast food. I avoided it last week, and I think that is how I lost 2.6 pounds at my weigh in this morning. I pack my food for work and always keep an apple in my purse. If I pick up food, it is usually at Woody's Oasis, a mediterranean deli. They have a great lentil salad. They only use olive oil in everything they make. I have to make a conscious choice to avoid McDonalds when I drive, and I even take the long way home to do so sometimes.

Being at the pool as much as possible seems to be key for me. When I work out at the pool, I take a few minutes to stretch using poses I learned from yoga class. I talk to the ladies in the locker room, especially ones who are 20 or more years older than I and seem to be really active. A lot of them are survivors of something, healthwise. There's Betty who survived breast cancer, Joleene who lost a hundred pounds 20 years ago just by going to the pool everyday (she's 85), and the lady who has a locker on the other side of me who also swims everyday around the same times I do. She swims longer and faster than I do, and I think she's about 70.

Yoga is good, I do manage to get my heart pumping and perspire a little even though it is slow. Being aware of my breathing and my posture has been helpful, as well as exercises to improve my balance. I do get a sense of relaxation afterwards. My co-workers support each other by attending class together.

Spiritually, I've learned a few things. Of how a sin can take over your life if you aren't monitoring it. That I have a weight problem has been obvious for many years, but it's amazing how slow I was to addressing what was really causing it--my eating. Often, I did try to lose weight but only by working out. It is easier than changing how I ate to resolve stress.

It was stressful to find out that I was diabetic. I know how it affected my mother, who essentially died from complications related to that disease. I felt like God had abandoned me, and that I had abandoned myself as well. I finally came around from my terror of where I was healthwise and trusting that God had a plan to help me through the tough changes I had in front of me. He used my sisters, Amy and Fran, to confront my food abuse and eat better through Weight Watchers.

The thing that has helped me the most is God showing me how He is present with me all the time, and I never eat alone. And that He offers me food that really satisfies my soul.

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