Tuesday, June 28, 2005

My Healthy Living plan

I'm a mom of seven, a bit over forty years old, with a nursing toddler.
All that adds up to the fact that I can't just eat junk, sit around on the computer all day, and still hope to stay healthy. Back around January, I only had gained a few extra pounds from my college "norm" (which probably isn't even a real norm now) but my blood sugar cycles were getting more extreme and I was battling fatigue and moodiness. I also was dealing with insomnia for the first time in my life.

More importantly, gluttony and carelessness with my health was feeling like a spiritual problem that I hadn't progressed much with since my adolescent days.

So around March I started to try to sanctify my physical choices. First I Googled for everything I could find on weight loss, exercise and healthy living. I'll put up some of the most helpful links in another entry. The most helpful, for me, were the ones that focused on habits -- making modest lifestyle changes -- and on "holistic" thinking -- a New Agey term, in some ways, but it also coincides with Catholic thought on mind, body and heart working together.

Then I made a notebook. This is how I do almost everything, by the way! Other people might work differently -- but for me, researching and commiting is the first step; then breaking it down into baby steps and customizing for MY own life; then actually working on the baby steps. Patience and perseverance in small increments is the key to shortcircuit my perfectionism. And prayer, "sanctifying" my efforts, is crucially important.

So I had my notebook full of inspirational articles, and schedule forms so I could track what I wanted to track -- right now I have logs for eating, and exercise, and water drinking, and the back is to write spiritual reflections and applications. I'll enter the specific forms later.

I find that keeping track on forms, though I don't do it compulsively, helps me examine myself and keeps me from getting careless. I don't plan to do it forever. Also, another element of success for me is some variety -- I've kept up with the food and exercise logs for over two months now, but I periodically look for new forms when the old ones get boring. Again, another person might prefer more consistency, and still another person might find keeping forms at all "too much", but variety within limits works best for me.

So now the result is that I've lost 12 pounds, which puts me where I like towards the low side of the BMI chart, and am MUCH more fit. What I need to do now is maintain the weight and fitness, and keep up with the new habits: daily exercise several times a day (works better for me than one longer session), lots more fruit and veggies, and regular smaller-size meals to keep my blood sugar stable.

I have a much harder time "maintaining" habits than meeting a set goal. So I have to be aware that the work isn't done now, it's a continuing process. Having specific habits really helps with this. If I am sliding, I can usually trace it to the lapse of a habit.... like right now I'm going over the line in pushing back breakfast time, which puts me in danger of breakthrough hunger later in the afternoon if I don't be careful!

All this "method" I'm describing is helping my spiritual life as well. I used to work in "spiritual" cycles just as I did with eating/exercise cycles -- do well for a while, then lapse when things got difficult or when I got bored or careless -- but in fact, the principles ought to be much the same and I'm trying to carry over the same method now and use that "habit-forming" momentum to work on prayer goals now. Overall, I'd like the "habit" of progressing and improving to become a fixed disposition in all areas, because that adds up to perseverance, and that's what I lack. I hope it is clear that all this should be under the umbrella of grace, because without the infused gift of Love, all that I can do is vain and destructive. I KNOW that for a fact, but I need to keep it at the front of my mind always! When I forget it, God allows me to lapse so I have to start from scratch again, which has been a mercy -- for me, fortitude and persistence and courage are not natural virtues, andso, in my weakness, God shows His strength. How thrilling that I am not alone!

I need to go eat some breakfast and pay attention to my kids!

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