"I feel like somebody kicked me down a flight of stairs while I was sleeping."
I said those words just about every morning when I woke up. I felt like crap every day. My knees creaked, my back hurt, my neck and shoulders ached. I didn't want to move. Well, I was in my mid-40s, and these things happen as you get older. It's all a part of the aging process and there's nothing you can do about it.
Funny thing about that is that I'm into my 50s now, and nobody ever kicks me down a flight of stairs in my sleep any more. I wake up with energy and a minimum of aches and pains. I have a funky cubicle office 9-5 job, and yet I've never felt better.
That sure wasn't the case a few years back. 2001 was a terrible year for me. It started with a professional catastrophe and led directly into my worst-yet bout of depression, a disease with which I have struggled most of my life. Have you ever had a period of your life where the very fact that you woke up in the morning was a crushing disappointment? That was 2001 for me.
As if my own personal tragedies weren't enough, that September a band of bozos flew a couple of planes into the World Trade Center buildings in New York and the Pentagon in DC. (Maybe you heard about that.) And as Americans came to grips with domestic terrorism, I knew that idiot the Supreme Court had installed in the White House was going to get a pass to create as much havoc as he pleased.
As I contemplated the state of this Scared New World and my own situation, my outlook became even drearier. I became so depressed that for a while I couldn't force myself to eat or to sleep. I shuffled through life in a haze.
Around the end of September 2001, it crossed my mind that I might have lost a little bit of weight. The last time I had weighed myself I was about 230 pounds, so I got back on the scale to see if my suspicions were correct. And dang, I was less than 225 pounds - cool! So, I thought, let's try an experiment. I really don't want to gain back any of that weight, so instead of having three bowls of ice cream before bedtime, I'll just have one. Let's see if I can keep from putting those 5+ pounds back on.
That was my goal in its entirety: Try to keep from putting any weight back on, by having only one bowl of ice cream before I went to bed. I tried this rigorous regime for a couple of weeks, and I discovered two important things: I didn't even miss the second and third bowls of ice cream! I lost five more pounds just by not eating the bowls of ice cream I didn't even miss!
This was a startling development, but it motivated me to tweak my evening snacking a little more. I said OK, I will only have that nighttime bowl of ice cream on weekends. And much to my utter shock and amazement, I completely forgot about ice cream that second weekend. It was there in the freezer, and I didn't even give it a thought. That was a mind-blower.
Around that time I had the great good fortune of being able to take a weekly yoga class in the building where I work. Guru Patti was so encouraging and gently spiritual in her approach that I actually found myself thinking positively for the first time in years. So, with a new outlook on life, I finally made a conscious decision to try to lose weight. My goal was no longer trying to keep from gaining weight; I was anxious to get down to a size 14 once more.
One day in yoga class I was breathing into my knees as I maintained a standing forward bend, when I noticed something peculiar. The fleshy area on the inside of my right knee had a weird dent in it. I was starting to worry that I had somehow injured myself. I whipped my gaze over to the other knee and -- damn, Lefty had that same weird denty thing. It wasn't a lumpy convex shape any more -- it was concave.
What in the world was going on?! As I continued to lose weight and get more exercise, the concave areas next to my knees became more pronounced until finally I understood that I was actually changing shape.
By August 2002 I had lost over 50 pounds. Everybody at work was starting to really notice that I was losing weight. I heard the same question, over and over:
"What's your secret?"
People looking for a magic pill, a secret formula, some kind of painless cleansing regimen, were sorely disappointed. All I had to offer was the same old crap we've all heard a million times: Eat less, exercise more. Cut down on fat, eat more fruits and veggies, don't eat late at night, blah blah blah. Folks could see I had a lot more energy and bright spirits and they wanted to get on the bandwagon ... but when they talked to me about it, I never in my life heard so many reasons why people couldn't possibly exercise!
So when I got down to 175 I finally put it out in the world: I want to lose 100 pounds, I said. Then people became concerned that I was anorexic. "That's too much," they said. I replied simply that I was tired of being the fat girl all my life and I wanted to feel skinny for five minutes, do you mind?!?
By that time I had demonstrated enough success that I knew beyond any doubt I could lose 100 pounds if I put my mind to it. It took 19 months, but I did it. My heart was still aching from the other sore areas of my life, but -- believe it or not, and I wouldn't have believed it in the beginning -- moving your body helps you move past your despair. It works! A spiritual approach to yoga helps too. Baby, you need to relax.
Example: I started riding my bike in to work each morning. My ride took me past a part of town where bad things had happened to me and just being in that neighborhood reminded me of all my sorrows. I'd find my mind drifting in a less-than-positive direction. But my yoga training inspired me to remember that all that bad stuff was in the past. It wasn't happening any more. Now, it was just a story. Why was I letting an old story dictate my mood for one precious minute of my life? So I forced myself to notice that I was riding a bicycle through a beautiful city. Suddenly I was aware of the leaves in the trees, the color of the flowers, the hearty aroma of coffee in the morning air -- and all those sad thoughts were just an old story, one not worth repeating.
Once I stopped calling myself an idiot, I began to realize I can occasionally be pretty darned smart. Just imagine what you can do with a little positive thinking -- my mind is reeling with the scope of your possibilities!
Well, of course eating is fun! Eating sweet or salty fattening stuff is most fun of all and I'll be the first to admit it. Let's have some cake.
But even we go for a second or third slice, it all adds up to the fuel we are putting in our bodies. Whether we want to think about it that way or not, that's the way our bodies are consuming it. YES, it's delicious and NO, I don't want to scrape off the frosting.
And hell, I totally understand about not wanting to face up to unpleasant truths. I don't want to think of time as aging me. But I keep living longer every day, and a never-ending stream of evidence insistently reminds me that as much as I fight it, as deep into denial as I try to plunge, I cannot deny the obvious truth: My face is still time's bitch.
Tomorrow morning, when you put on that Speedo and see that cake-sized belly bulge in your mirror, you can't deny it either: THE FOOD YOU EAT IS REALLY NOTHING MORE THAN FUEL. Food is fuel like grass is green, water is wet, and Bush should have been impeached.
So snap out of it! Face the facts, and behave accordingly. Take in the fuel that a glorious beast such as yourself deserves.
by Janice Leber (December 2005)
"I don't like to think of food as fuel."
How I accidentally lost 100 pounds and got healthy
<-- Me in 2000
On the Chopped Liver Diet Plan, there's no such thing as cheating!
That's right, there's no such thing as cheating -- so go finish that box of Ho-hos. Go on, I won't stop you.
Eat every bit of chocolate, every cake crumb, every salty, cheesy bit of empty calories you can get your grubby mitts on. But don't try to sneak it past me. I will see it. When you walk down the street, we will all see the Chee-Tos on your thighs. We'll detect the cream cheese danish wobbling on your neck.
You can't cheat! We're all on to you.
See what I mean? There really is no such thing as cheating. Every time you eat something you know you shouldn't, everybody in the universe is going to know about it one way or another.
Do what you want to do. But don't ever lie to yourself and think no one will ever know.
HOW TO MAKE EXERCISE FUN -- It really works!
When people hear that I used to be obese and that I lost a major percentage of my body weight, I hear variations on one central question in particular: "What was the one thing that helped you lose the weight?"
I have always without hesitation replied, "Exercise."
I fear that people tend to discount the value of exercise in their lives, and that's a big mistake. A moderate workout will help you sleep better -- that right there is a good reason to go out and walk around the block right now, isn't it?
But wait, there's more! A good session of yoga helps you focus on simple pleasures and relax and honestly, truly will lift your spirits like you wouldn't believe.
A brisk walk, a quick jog, a dash up the stairs will get your heart going and the blood pumping and all your juices flowing -- which will make every part of your body work better.
But, as I have been told by these same people wanting to know how to lose weight, exercise is so very, very boring and -- what's the opposite of fun?
So here's what you do. Make it fun!
I like getting my aerobic exercise in the great outdoors, so that's where I do it when I can. I also have some exercise DVDs I got cheap, with aerobic dance moves. Being a music lover, I often crank it up and dance till I drop. That's what I like to do, and if you don't think that's fun, you have never danced with me.
But OK, that's not your thing. Maybe the only possible way you can get exercise right now, today, is on that old treadmill with all the clothes strewn over it. So yank the T-shirts and towels off the treadmill and hop on and for god's sake DO IT!!!
So let's say you hop on the treadmill and after five or ten minutes you figure wow, that's boring. So make it un-boring! Turn on the radio, set up in front of the tube, maybe even talk to somebody. Whatever. Just make it less boring. It will definitely be less boring.
So then you say it's still not fun. What do you do then?
MAKE IT FUN! If the only avenue left is to just decide it's fun, MAKE THAT CHOICE. "Wow," I hear you thinking as you turn up the treadmill, "this is fun!" Maybe you don't believe it at first. That's when it's time to really SELL this treadmill business. "Yes, it's fun!" you say right back to that doubting voice.
And then you're the customer, and you're buying. No, you really believe it. MAKE THAT CHOICE. "Yeah, it IS fun," you reply, "and I want to do this again tomorrow!"
You may have to play the salesman and the gullible customer for a few days. MAKE THAT CHOICE. Do it until it's such a regular part of your day that you just do it every day and you don't even have to think about it.
When you start seeing results, when your body starts to look more toned and you see the definition in your face, in your arms -- I guarantee that you will find that fun.
I always hated to exercise. I hated sweating and looking stupid and oh, the effort of it all.
But at some point, way too late in my life, I decided I deserved a nice body. I deserved to feel comfortable in my skin. For some reason I liked me enough to want me to be happy.
Almost without thinking about it, I began to take little baby steps toward incorporating regular exercise into my daily routine. It began by getting off the train a little further from the office on my way in to work. A few months later I was riding a bicycle to work. A year later I was running in the Hood To Coast, the world's longest relay race.
I will never be a champion runner, that's for darned sure (just ask my teammates on the Hood To Coast). But I will always be a runner, and a yogi, and a biker. I've learned how great it feels to let your body be your friend. When you get your body and your brain working together, exercise isn't a chore any more. It's a way to show yourself you appreciate you.
In a rut? Make it the rut you deserve -- with baby steps
I get up in the morning and go through a predictable routine. Every day is pretty similar to the last one and I like it that way just fine. I know what to expect.
My daily routine once included a stop at the coffee shop downstairs, where I'd grab a maple buttermilk bar around 9 each morning. It was the high point of my day.
But the low point wasn't far behind. Around 11 each morning I'd be doing battle with the sandman, right there at my desk. I could not stay awake.
One day, I thought I'd change my daily routine in one small way: I would forego the maple buttermilk bar. It was a sacrifice, sure, but I was trying to lose weight and it seemed like a challenge I could conquer.
Well yeah, I missed the doughnut at 9, but it was always gone by 9:15 anyway, so I only missed it for a few short minutes of my day. But the amazing thing was how great I felt at 11 a.m.! It was the first time in months I'd had plenty of energy and was able to focus on my work through the Eleven O'Clock Droop!
Yes, it had been a while. I hadn't felt such energy since ... since ... well, since I started having that maple buttermilk bar at 9 every morning.
Hmmmm. Some coincidence.
So if you're hoping to incorporate more healthful living in your own particular rut, one key piece of advice I can offer is this: BABY STEPS. Take it slow. Make one teeny little change in your everyday behavior -- one simple, practically meaningless little alteration in the direction of health and hope.
Incorporate that one simple switch in your life until it's second nature. And then look toward the horizon you seek, where you are trim and healthy and full of energy. That's the direction you're moving, so face that way and take one more teeny, tiny little baby step.
You'll be amazed how soon you can get where you're going, and you will be so proud you were able to make the journey.
Exercise: it gets you going.
I've heard people say that -- a lot. I think the theory is that eating is too much fun to be thought of as something as mundane as putting in fuel for your body's activities.