Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Reaching for the Brass Ring

With the new year comes the time to honestly size up ourselves. Do we like the way we look? Do we feel healthy? Are we happy? What personal and professional goals would we like to achieve in the near or long-term future? How strong are our significant relationships?

We have an opportunity to improve upon the previous year. So at the cost of a little hunger, pain, and the possibility of rejection, should we make resolutions to stretch ourselves with the intent of becoming better versions of ourselves? It's an individual decision, but I say yes.

The key to keeping a positive attitude -- even if you do not accomplish your goals -- is being realistic, in my opinion. For example, don't resolve to lose thirty pounds because that feat feels too daunting. Resolve to lose five. If you are not satisfied once you've lost five, resolve to lose another five, etc. Approach the challenge bit by bit. That way, I believe, you will stand a better chance of keeping the weight off because your body will have a chance to adjust. Lose the weight too fast, and you will likely gain it back . . . unless you have developed extremely good eating habits and an exercise regimen that you are diligent about.

I speak from experience. Not too long ago, I went on Jenny Craig. I have never been an overweight person. In fact, I have been very athletic my whole life. I only gained twenty-one pounds during one pregnancy and twenty-two the other, and both babies were nine-pounders. Within one month of delivering each, I had lost all the weight plus an extra few pounds for good measure the first time around.

Did I look fantastic or what? I looked fantastic.


It wasn't pregnancy that caused me to gain weight and keep it on. It was 24/7 single motherhood along with other stressful experiences I was having at the time. At my heaviest -- I am not there now, but I am closer than I'd like to be -- I didn't consider myself fat. I called myself a larger version of myself. I have broad shoulders, yet I'm not fleshy up top. So the added weight made me look less like a competitive swimmer and more like a rugby player. (For the record, I have been both.) I tended to notice my natural padding less in the mirror and more in photographs and how my clothes fit . . . or, more precisely, how they didn't fit.

So I went to Jenny, having tried Slim Fast a couple of times with varying success as well as the bogus acai-berry diet. Jenny was great for me. At the rate of their celebrity spokespeople, I lost in the neighborhood of twenty-five pounds or more. (Actor Jason Alexander, a.k.a. George Costanza on "Seinfeld," was one at the time.) Those people supplement their diets with workouts courtesy of the most amazing Hollywood personal trainers. I had to self-motivate to get my body moving! But that I did, and I was pretty darn proud of myself for it. Like Valerie Bertinelli, I wore a bikini on vacation and at the local beach. However, like Kirstie Allie, the weight came back on after I went off the plan.

What happened? I got complacent . . . and a tad cocky. I knew all about calorie-counting and fruits and vegetables. I knew all about drinking water thirty minutes before a meal. And I knew all about the consequences of slacking off on exercise. Still, I did it anyway. I returned to eating what I wanted, though in a slightly more mindful manner. "Slightly" is the key word here. Ten pounds reappeared before long. Hmm, not happy about that. But not the end of the world either, I thought to myself. To save money, I put my athletic club membership on hold. When the hold period elapsed, pleased with my fiscal responsibility, I decided to drop my membership altogether.

Warm weather means ice cream and s'mores; cold weather means hot chocolate. I had a favorite tasty, sweet treat for every season.

So here I am having lazily put back much of the flesh I had worked hard to lose. Am I mad at myself? No. Disappointed? A little. Am I motivated to get back my bikini body? Not so much. The reality is: I am fifty now, so I am going to cut myself some slack because I also know all about metabolism and age. Previously, I was driven to slim down for dating. As I am happily not looking for anyone right now, my motivation to gradually lose and tone comes from a different place altogether -- a desire to stay healthy for my children so I can be around a very long time for them. Yes, there is an element of vanity to it, and there is also an element of pragmatism to it. I simply can't afford to keep buying new clothes in many different sizes. My ski pants don't fit, and that really annoys me. I had to wear a pair of the most awful rain pants over my long johns to a mountain the other day.

Not a good look!

While I plan to work on losing weight, I am realistic about the task as well. Certainly, I am not as gung ho as before. Rather, I have resigned myself to it. "Okay, this has gone too far. Time to get back in shape" is my current attitude. A piecemeal approach is my strategy. I've rejoined my health club, and today I exercised for the first time this year. Afterwards I craved a peanut-butter-cup smoothie but wisely said no when I was told it contains a whopping 676 calories.

I settled for a scone.

This blog, surprisingly, will help my diet -- God, I hate that word! -- because I was accustomed to snacking at the time I am now writing. Owing to my more even-keeled attitude, I may very well have better success in the long run this time around.

Whether you seek weight loss or something else, make your resolutions realistic. Reach for the brass ring, but don't beat yourself up if you can't grab it.

There is always next year.

What New Year's resolutions did you make for 2012? What are you doing to keep them?

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