Ever since I was a wee one, I've been active. Biking, skating, playing kickball, softball, running...you name it, I've probably done it. Unfortunately, exercise hasn't prevented me from having high cholesterol. Knowing I was in danger of having a heart attack, like my mother did in her 40s, I took control of my health the best way I could.
After gaining over fifty pounds while pregnant with my first child at age 34, I knew I was going to need some help taking off the added weight. (It didn't help that my cholesterol was so high at that point, I was unable to receive life insurance.) So I joined a gym. And took off the extra weight and then some, thanks to also nursing my baby.
Second child came along, same weight gain, same situation. But back to the gym I went. Lost it all again...at age 38. I looked fantastic, I had energy, I felt amazing. I became so addicted to exercise, in fact, that I'd be at the gym no less than six hours a week. And I would run 4-6 miles other days.
But then came my divorce from my husband while my kids were still young. At first, the stress and anxiety contributed to a massive weight loss where I was so underweight, my breasts disappeared. Seriously. All I had were these little skin flaps and a rib cage that jutted out uneasily from my five foot three inch frame. I had no job, I was living off alimony and child support, and my ex-husband was aggravated having to provide both of those for me when the divorce was my choice. I finally found work writing from home and that helped out a bit, but it wasn't enough.
Eventually, the alimony dried up and my ex took a less stressful job, and his salary was slashed by more than half. My child support dwindled to so little, I had no choice but to look outside the home for a job. I was desperate to find work to support myself and the boys, whom I had most of the time at that point since I wasn't yet working a full-time job. I had been out of the work force for a long time, save for a few writing courses I taught and the occasional writing gig.
I could no longer afford the gym membership, so my love affair with exercise ended.
Since this is a post about exercise and not intended to be a "woe is me" article, fast forward to when I found a desk job. And gained weight. Rapidly. It didn't help that my body was a-changin'. Peri-menopause gripped me in its fiendish claws and the muscular body I'd toned and worked on so hard for so many years became a doughy, mushy mess. My dumpling butt filled out the computer chair. Cellulite appeared in places it should never be seen. When I finally stepped on a scale, I wanted to cry. I'd gained over fifteen pounds in just a couple years.
I tried a few different diets, including one where I purchased shakes and vitamins. It didn't fit me well, though. I found myself in a state of depression. I bought exercise equipment...a treadmill, recumbent bike, weights, medicine ball. But I came home from work exhausted and having to feed two boys and help them with homework. My writing fell to the wayside because after 40 hours a week typing data into a computer, I didn't want to even look at a keyboard. And then, as some of you have read in a previous post, I quit my job to start my own business...and broke my collarbone right off.
Okay, this still reads like a "woe is me" article. But it's not! Because, guess what?
Exercising saved me
I began a nearly daily exercise program. The only things that prevented me from exercise was my depression, my kids, my writing, and cleaning my house, which I somewhat counted as exercise. But the important part was...even if I couldn't exercise for, say, a week, I didn't beat myself up for it. At least I was doing it at all. And my legs began to become more shapely. My butt fit better into my jeans. My arms grew stronger.
But here's the thing...I can't get myself back to the great shape I was before the sit-down job. And I believe it's because of the upcoming menopause. I've heard fat accumulates in the thighs and gut...and I would have to say those (along with the armpit area) are the places fat has decided to camp out. Roasting marshmallows.
Looking in store mirrors, that harsh bright white fluorescent glow giving my skin the sallow coloring I've grown to accept, has become a demotivator. And I don't think that's even a real word. My stomach blooms like the head of a mushroom and my arms are the texture of floppy carp. I'm not even an appetizing meal at this rate.
But looks aside...my mood has been improving. My heart loves the freedom of romping around in my chest. My eyes focus on the beauty of trees against the backdrop of puffy clouds, and my nose senses Spring and that earthy smell of flower buds pushing against soil. The air is crisp and fresh, like a breath of cleansing air digging out dusty debris from my lungs. This, I think, is what it mean to live. This moment, right now, is why I am alive.
It's not losing weight that matters. It's the amazing world we forget to admire when we're so wrapped up in our day-to-day lives. And meantime, my butt is getting tighter, my legs stronger, my arms a little less plump. Side effects of enjoying the world. And I'm hoping to bring that love of exercise to others to that they, too, can enjoy what happens when one lets their body seize the moment.