I never had weight issues as a kid, but once I went off to college, I started to struggle with it. I could go into detail about the up and down, up and down years of see-sawing between not caring what my body looks and feels like to eventually reaching a point of being fed up and deciding to do something about it…but many of us have that same story. Having spent my time since 2005 focused far more on my spiritual path and inner journey, I didn’t give much energy to what was happening with my body. This year though, as I approached my 53rd birthday, something shifted. I started to care. I realized that if I really want to keep doing my teaching work, I better make sure I’m in optimal health so I can handle it.
After doing a lot of research, I chose to work with the good folks at the Austin Wellness Clinic to get some control back. I hadn’t been to a doctor in six years and felt it was time to get lab work done, so I went all out. I had my hormones checked, I did all the usual tests one does, and I had a comprehensive food allergy screen, all of which helped determine a plan of action.
The most radical thing I did was commit to exercising seven days a week (that’s not a typo!). I started with two days of strength training (using 3-pound weights), upped my cardio workout to include interval training on the treadmill, bought a bike and started riding again (which I thought I’d never be able to do), and added yoga and one day a week of endurance training. To be able to do all of this, I got up early and completed my workout before I had the chance to talk myself out of it.
I also kept track of everything: the food I ate, the exercise I did, how I felt, and my daily weight. My stepmom, Judy, told me about this great online tool (and of course, there’s an app) called My Fitness Pal, and you can learn more about it by clicking the icon below. It reminds me of when I used WeightWatchers online, with some added bells and whistles.
I cut out all the foods that weren’t really helping my health or my weight: sugar (as a lover of milkshakes, the biggest adjustment!), dairy, gluten, and for a while, oils. I ate protein, veggies, and fruit. I’m now having three meals a day (paying attention to portion size, what a concept!), plus three mini-meals including protein (nuts make a great snack). My skin is improving, there’s much less swelling in my body, and my energy is enviable.
After a few weeks on the program (I had to check in weekly), I was encouraged to up the amount of strength training and so I went from two to four days of that. No doubt, it’s what’s had the biggest impact. In the early days, I felt terribly weak and wimpy, but day by day I’m getting stronger. I have increased the weights I’m using and I get through my workouts more quickly. What’s really fun is watching muscles start to appear (oh, so those are what abs look like!), and seeing my clothes fall off me. I had done a bit of weight lifting in the past and really appreciated Joyce Vedral’s books, so though out of print, I found them online and highly recommend Weight Training Made Easy as a great one to start with.
I also have a wonderful support system, being blessed to have my Dad and Judy cheering me every step of the way. They’re my role models anyhow: they’re in their 70’s, they go to the gym several times a week, they are the poster children for retirement as they travel the world, and they’re hard to keep up with! I’d like someone to have that complaint about me when I’m their age.
Around the time I got serious about this, I started re-reading Disappearance of the Universe and A Course in Miracles. I began communicating more concertedly with the Holy Spirit throughout the day and took time in the mornings and at night to simply feel the presence of God. I realized that there is no need to separate my spiritual self from my physical self (even it is all an illusion! ). I feel more on track than I have in ages, and I intend to keep this up.
If you have lost hope, if you think it’s too late for you, I hope this encourages you to just start somewhere…with small steps. If I can turn this around (and surprisingly quickly, I might add), perhaps you can as well. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you. What have you got to lose (except perhaps a size or two!)?
I wish you peace.
©Maria K. Benning, M.Ed.
Licensed Pastoral Therapist
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