There were years in my youth when I woke on a summer day, threw on a pair of shorts over a bathing suit and ate a quick breakfast of cereal and juice. I did my chores (this was back when kids did chores) as a matter of routine. As soon as possible, I rode my bike to the beach and swam out to the raft. I floated on my back and recited memorized poetry to the gulls. My friends soon came along, and we played cards and talked about who knows what. By the time I rode my bike the two miles back home, I was tired from the sun and activity. Mom cooked a dinner of meat, potatoes, and vegetables, with a home made dessert most days. Then, after helping with dishes, I would go outside, climb a tree, and read a good book. That routine lasted until I was 16, the magic age of needing a summer job and getting a drivers license. I wasn’t smart enough then to grieve the passing of that glorious summer lifestyle.
What happened to that girl? How did she so willingly let go of the personal freedom of riding a bike around town, thinking that driving a car was a step up? Why can’t the woman she became remember how joyful movement is? Has she completely blocked out the memory of the wind in her hair as she rode downhill, and the feeling of power as she climbed up? How did she come to think that it was her job to work without play breaks?
That girl was me, and by the time my husband died, I was 50# overweight, and it was all I could do just to accomplish all the business of taking care of the estate and the house. My son and his wife announced that I would soon be a grandmother for the first time. I thought ahead to what kind of relationship I wanted with my grandchild. I wanted to ride a bike with her, to ski with her, to swim with her, and even just get up and down off the floor with her. What I saw in this child was a playmate. Once again, it would be socially accepted to be silly and active. Now, one does not become so overweight in a straight line. There were lots of diets that failed along the way. So, initially, I intended simply to get stronger and fit. I joined Anytime Fitness and worked with Axel Mahlke, a personal trainer, twice, to get an exercise program going . I exercised faithfully 4 days a week for 60 minutes each time.
The work-out was 30 minutes on the elliptical machine for aerobics, then light weight lifting, balance and stretching exercises. After 3 months, I had not lost a pound. But I knew, because I have my masters in exercise physiology, that after 12 weeks of exercise that raises my heart rate for at least 20 minutes, my muscle cells developed more capillaries and more mitochondria. The mitochondria are the part of the cell that burn fat for energy.
That chemical reaction requires oxygen, and the increased capillaries provide that oxygen. Now that the physical changes had occurred in the muscle cells, I knew that I was more capable of burning fat. So I met with Rosemary Collins, a registered dietician, and she helped me develop a nutrition plan. Based on my sex, age, and activity level, she prescribed the number of calories that I could take in every day in order to lose one pound a week. She taught me how to use an “ap” on the computer to be sure that my proportion of fat, protein, and carbohydrate were appropriate. I will admit that it was hard, and I was hungry most of the time. But, science was right. I lost one pound a week until I lost all 50 pounds. I went from a size 16 to a size 4. That was 4 years ago, and I’ve kept it off. I have met my goal of skiing, swimming, and playing with now 2 granddaughters. I’ve yet to ride a bike with them, but I have started riding my bike to work in good weather.
I’ve also been able to discontinue medications for blood pressure and cholesterol.
My biggest reward is being able to play. I have a general sense of well being that is joyful, and peaceful, and positive. I encourage anyone who has a sense that there might be a better way to live, to explore a more active lifestyle.