At forty, I'm beginning to question whether what I eat really matters. I've tried about every diet on the planet and manage to stick to each one for somewhere in the neighborhood of 3 days. I don't eat much meat, but wouldn't classify myself a vegetarian. Low-carb/high protein diets give me headaches and make me inexplicably angry. I have bought various books by fitness and diet "experts" and have read them with great enthusiam and resolved to follow them precisely for the 7-days, 12-weeks, 90 months, etc. that they prescribe. The single thing all of these attempts have in common is that at the end (my end because I never make it to the directed end) I am left feeling like I have failed and then go purchase and consume most of a Costco Red Velvet Cake.
The one thing I know to be true, is that I crave variety and hate to feel like I'm forced (by myself even) to follow any sort of directed eating or exercising plan. Even perfect ones. Especially perfect ones.
Here is a list of the fabulous things I intend to do starting today that will make me healthier (by healthier I mean that I will no longer bash myself for failing to perfectly following anyone's diet and exercise plan).
1. Eat lots of veggies and whole grains. I love all vegetables and all grains so this is the easy part.
2. Have some cheese when I like and 1/2 and 1/2 in my coffee. These things are delicious and keep me from feeling deprived.
3. Eat some protein. This might be greek yogurt, maybe some vegetarian meat in my chili, or even a piece of rotisserie chicken if it's tasty and hot. No rules. If I walk into my mom's kitchen and she offers me a tasty BLT, I am going to eat the bacon, give thanks to the pig and go on with my life!
The truth is that as long as I don't live on bagels and cake, my weight doesn't fluctuate much. The difference in how I feel is enormous when I'm happily eating a random variety of foods that I cook mostly at home and enjoy.
The other half of the equation is exercise. Same sordid story, intense and well intentioned exercise programs starting with Taebo and most recently a weak (less than a week, haha) attempt at a very good 12-week bodybuilding plan. But I'm throwing every single plan away, I'm donating the books that contain them to the D.I. (Utah version of Salvation Army) so that I cannot see them staring at me from the book shelf when I pass by. Instead here is the new and improved exercise plan:
1. Do some Bikram yoga when it's convenient. The studio is 45 minutes away so I only go when I have other business in Salt Lake and some free time. Whenever I go I wish I could go everyday because it makes me feel like a rock star.
2. Go for a walk whenever I can find someone to walk with, it's too boring to walk alone. If I'm on the walk and feel like running then I will, falalalala. Remember, no rules. I'm more of an opportunity runner than a dedicated one.
3. There are many interesting exercises to do with a medicine ball. I have a printout of ten of these exercises that when combined work the whole body. I only enjoy doing six of the ten so I avoid this workout. Tonight I am going to go home and cross the four I don't like off with a sharpie and happily do the fun six. The workout is called the Tarheel 200 and it's available on Menshealth.com if you are interested.
4. Swimming is fun. Lifting weights is empowering. My dad loves to play tennis and sometimes I do too. Rollerskating, iceskating, Taebo DVD, 30-Day Shred DVD, and entire cabinet of excellent workout DVDs... you get the picture.
The point is that we all have enough stress and expectations imposed on us by jobs and family obligations. If you are a person who actually enjoys sticking to a plan then by all means, stick to the plan! But do not let it rule you, do not let the anxiety of "have to" keep you from enjoying the things you love. You decide what feels good to your body, what makes your soul sing, what you can put on the calendar for next week and absolutely look forward to with your whole heart.
What's the difference? Doing what you like allows you to show yourself some love, and when you are loving yourself the whole universe will receive and acknowledge that love and return it with joy and abundance.
Question: What do you let the "fun" out of by forcing yourself to do it?