Last summer was a fantastic summer of change; my husband and I had already flirted with running as regular exercise the year before. While I had not yet reached the point of running a 5k or a half-marathon, by July non-athlete me had gotten to the point where I could out sprint my three very quick children, even after giving them head starts. (Important Life Lesson: running 150 yards across a field at a family campground without first warming up is not a great idea, even if fun in the moment. Stretch first, or else... ouch.).
My husband joined Weight Watchers at the end of July. His decision impacted the rest of us. I started to pay more careful attention to the food I planned and prepared for the family. I re-evaluated how I shopped and what everyone had been eating. The new point system for Weight Watchers makes all fruit and vegetables “free” of points, so I naturally began to cook more vegetables, even as main dishes. I cut our fat intake in half by baking or grilling instead of frying meals. We increased whole grains and virtually eliminated more processed white breads. Desserts like chocolate, ice cream or cake became a once-per-week family event that Emre and I didn’t necessarily share in ourselves.
Emre has mentioned his success and motivation on his blog. As for me, I didn’t count points. I just ate healthier. My snacking between meals became nutritious: I devoured more carrot sticks, watermelon and cucumbers, not so many crackers and tortilla chips.
The results of these changes were gratifying. With proper nutrition and regular exercise in place, I dropped down three clothing sizes within a three-month span. In May, I weighed just under 120 lbs. and I didn’t fit into anything in my summer clothes bin. In September, I weighed my high school weight of 104 pounds! (Please note: I am short.) I had more energy than I’d felt in a really long time.
Then: a change. At the end of September I began to feel really tired. I thought I was fighting off a virus, so I slept later. Instead of getting up at 5:30 a.m., I found myself glued to my bed until 7:00 a.m. I gave myself a week: the feeling didn’t pass. Now I needed naps, too! And my breasts hurt. A lot. What was this!? Could I be...? Nah.
At some point I looked at the calendar to discover with a shock that we’d entered the second week of October. My last cycle had begun over Labor Day weekend. Could I be...? Since I had a dentist appointment with X-Rays coming up, I ran out and bought a home pregnancy test. The “Plus” that showed up in the window made me laugh out loud.
Apparently, my body was young again.
I am 38, I have miscarried twice, and four years ago we were actively using Natural Family Planning to conceive a fourth child. After my second miscarriage, we repeatedly failed to conceive. The inability to conceive was shocking, because we’d conceived “as planned” for each of our other three (Emre’s joke then had been, “If I look at my wife, she’ll get pregnant.) Eventually we stopped charting/trying. We’ve been “providential” for over two years. We said to ourselves, “Whatever,” figuring that it was just God’s will that our family remain an odd number. We were getting older, not younger. (I recently blogged about the emotions I stuffed with this along the way.) Then, suddenly, without planning or intervention: pregnant! The only thing we’d changed was lifestyle. (In other words, just about everything.)
I don’t offer this testimony with the intention of bragging, but as a witness to what surprises may lie in store if one maintains hope and is patient with oneself. I am not special; I could be anybody.
Don’t give up your aspirations for health and fitness, whatever your stage of life. Is it overwhelming? Yes, it is. Take baby steps: talk to your doctor, then change one thing. (My first was regular exercise). If you fall away from it, do not chastise, demean or put yourself down. Instead, brush the dust off, stop comparing yourself to everyone else, stop beating yourself up for whatever you “failed” to do in the past, and instead do the best you can right now. God is in this moment; He is not left in your past nor merely waiting in the future once you are “worthy” enough. He is with you now, so talk to Him. Make your change a sacrifice for Him, once. Then make it once more. Then once more again; before you know it, a habit has been born. This may take weeks, or months. It won’t feel “natural” or easy. Don’t let that stop you. Find support from family and friends. Don’t give up.
Eventually you'll see that one change has been molded into a habit. Don’t stop there; you have momentum! Commit to creating another good habit. (My second was healthier eating, for me and for my kids.) Then I committed to following another dream (writing). I have committed to each goal with prayer and thanksgiving to Him, hoping for everything while expecting nothing. It has all been an exercise in patience and fortitude.
It has also been an adventure which has yielded an unexpected and wonderful surprise.