Mental Health Monday: Counting Calories
Like millions of other people, I experience depression from time to time. At age 64, I know myself pretty well. Sometimes it’s what my mother’s generation called “the blues”—a mild garden-variety depression with no specific origin. Could even be boredom or fatigue or bad weather.
But lately I’ve been all too aware that the darkness I feel is related to my lifelong battle with my body. A battle I’ve been slowly losing as I’ve been packing on weight for the past year or so. I’ve reached my all time heaviest. (No need to look away, I’m not going to share any numbers here.) They say that when something bothers you enough, you’ll do something about it. I can see how this can be true when it comes to things like cleaning out the kitchen junk drawer or the bedroom closet. But my weight has always bothered me, and I’ve only done something about it, successfully, a few times in my life. Here’s what has worked for me:
In the 1980s I started teaching aerobic dancing. So I was working out a lot—not only teaching classes, but choreographing routines, training other instructors, and practicing at home. About the same time I discovered the book, Fit or Fat, by Covert Bailey. Bailey’s simple solution to weight loss? It’s what you eat 80% of the time that matters. So I started eating mindfully during the week and relaxed my habits on the weekends, while working out about six days a week. Did I mention I was young and arthritis hadn’t taken up residence in my joints yet?
The next time I lost weight successfully was in the early 2000s. This time, again, it was related to exercise. I joined Curves and worked out three times a week. I lost 15 pounds pretty quickly and hit a plateau. I wasn’t dieting.
Round three happened in the summer of 2013. After my car wreck I was immobilized for several months—zero exercise. And yet I lost 15 pounds. For the first time I can ever remember, I just didn’t have an appetite. Not for food or alcohol. But it didn’t last, and within a year I had gained it back and didn’t stop gaining until I found myself unhappily overweight. Again.
I’m uncomfortable in my clothes. In fact, I’ve got quite a few nice clothes I can’t even wear. So today I’ve decided it’s bothering me enough to do something about it. I don’t believe in diets. Or rather, they don’t work for me. And I’m not very disciplined about exercise right now, although I’m going to make a commitment to work out on the elliptical machine regularly. Mindful eating is something I always aim for, but I think desperate times call for desperate measures, so I’m going to revert back to something old-fashioned and tried and true: counting calories. Just downloaded a couple of apps on my iPhone to help with the math. Had to enter my current weight and my goal weight to see how many calories to budget every day. About 1300. I see lots of vegetables in my future. If this gets to be too hard I might have to revert back to Bailey’s 80/20 formula and give myself a break occasionally. But it feels good to have a plan, and to begin. If you think about it, please say a prayer for me. And thanks for reading.