It was one of my birthday goals this year to begin exercising again on a somewhat regular basis. I was fanatical about walking on a treadmill at least 3 times a week during my last pregnancy, but the second Norah came out, it was no longer a priority. I manage to lose baby weight without effort (although it happens very slowly over the course of the first year), so this goal is not so much about the way I look as it is about the way I feel.
We have two different gyms less than two miles from our house. It is so easy to get there and back that I’m wondering why I’ve waited so long on this. There’s a childcare room that the kids LOVE, and they can play together and keep up with each other which makes it zero stress or guilt on my part. They play with toys and work on art projects for 45 minutes while I put in some steps on an elliptical and complete a few light weights. It’s so simple, but I know the school year will leave less time for things like this. Still though, if I can even make it twice a week during the school year, it’s a vast improvement over nothing. I’m amazed at how much better I am sleeping in these past couple of weeks with exercise a frequent part of my routine now.
Health is such a focus in our current society, and while I am grateful for that and the time I live in, I sometimes wonder if we obsess too much and worry over things we shouldn’t. Scott and I completed a Whole 30 a few days before we left for Mexico. I didn’t mention it here because I was honestly afraid I’d fail and not complete it, so I didn’t want to announce it. It is INTENSE. Scott was fully invested, so I did it in solidarity, but I am the first to admit that I loosened the rules a little a couple of times (mmmm, black beans), but on the whole, I was 95% compliant which felt like an accomplishment to me. Many people do this program to discover food intolerances, but I really just wanted to reset my taste buds, so to speak, and be more mindful in my approach to food. The rules are essentially no sugar in any form, no dairy, no alcohol, no white potatoes, no beans and legumes, no grains of any kind, no soy. So we pretty much ate only meat, vegetables, nuts, and fruit for 30 days.
I discovered that I genuinely feel better when I have a few whole grains in my diet. (Sorry, Paleo people. It’s true for me!) But I also feel better when I limit store-bought grains, dairy, beer and sugar (weep!). On top of that, I promise I lost 2 inches in my waist (I measured) in the first 5 days. I wasn’t going hungry, and I logged my calories to see no change from my usual intake, so I know it was just bloating and inflammation that disappeared. Still pretty amazing though, even though size was not a motivating factor.
But of course, here I am a few weeks later, and I am not following those rules anymore. It was an interesting exercise, but I feel like I eat healthy enough regardless and decided to try and hold onto a couple of “rules” a little and ditch the rest. I recently heard the term orthorexia used to describe modern eating, and I think there is a valid argument there. I spent 30 days obsessing over most everything I put in my mouth or prepared in my kitchen. I could never live that way – nor do I think it is healthy.
Food documentaries opened my eyes about 4 years ago, and I did a complete overhaul of how we eat. I’m grateful for such a focus on clean eating everywhere you look. But now I feel like we are good enough. Eat real food, pile on the veggies, limit sugar, and enjoy your meals. Those are pretty much my personal rules right now. And if I supplement that plan with an occasional doughnut stop, that’s okay too.
I want my kids to see me making an effort in diet and exercise, but I don’t want them to obsess about it – the same way I intend to teach my daughter to wear sunscreen and take care of her skin in order to avoid wrinkles, but also know that they are going to happen anyway. Time changes our faces and our bodies. My decisions to make steps toward better health are motivated by my desire to feel good and look decent as I age. But age happens anyway. So does birthday cake, warm queso, cold beer, and all kinds of other things that aren’t the healthiest. So here’s to doing the best we can and not obsessing about the rest, to priorities and enjoying our food, to being our best selves by balancing all the advice with the desire to loosen our pants and live a little.
Do you have “food rules” of any kind? How do you approach balance with diet and exercise, especially if you have a little one to feed as well? I am always interested to hear what others have to say about this.