Monday, August 20, 2012

Nothing Ever Seemed So Hard

So, I guess I never did make it back to regular posting last week (or so) as I had planned. Unfortunately, I still haven’t quite worked out my need for perfection, so when I’m not doing it all right I tend to not want to talk (or write) about it. Well, there’s always something to work on, I suppose.

The good news is that I haven’t binged in weeks, so that’s not it. I haven’t really even overeaten, at least not for emotional reasons - I’m pretty sure I overdid it once or twice on foods that I just can’t lay off of (certain Chinese options, Indian Makhani, or Thai Red Curry). I don’t quite want to call them trigger foods, they aren’t quite like Doritos for me in that regard, but I just can’t resist eating until the plate is practically licked clean.

What I’ve really been feeling out of sorts about is my complete and total lack of interest in movement. I want to WANT to move, maybe that’s a start, but I can’t just sit around waiting to want to do it. The completely sedentary lifestyle is not healthy at any size. On the other hand, I don’t want to force myself to do something I hate because I “have to do it.” I have enjoyed some forms of exercise before and I know that if I can begin I will find pleasure in them again. But getting to the beginning.... “All I need’s a starting place, and nothing ever seemed so hard!” (Remember that video I posted, from Toad the Wet Sprocket?)

And so here’s my bit on starting from nothing...

I had been trying to make myself use our home treadmill, get on it at least two or three days a week for half an hour and walk at a comfortable pace. I succeeded about once per week, if that. Then I remembered something some friends of mine do when they are starting new goals: they begin with ridiculously easy goals for the first week. And then, if you find you can’t even manage that, cut the goal in half and try again. And maybe even once again, if it’s necessary. Make it SO ridiculous that it would be ridiculous to skip it. Then do that for a week. Next week, up your challenge just a little.

I started with the simplest thing I could think of - just get dressed out and stretch my calves. Today was Day One, and so far, so good. I got dressed out and did a bit of stretching, and then a bit more, and then hit the floor to get some good leg and back stretches (there’s one that feels so good for the sciatica). When I got up, I was feeling pretty fine so I did some funky little air-punches to the left and right. Yeah, I looked like an idiot, but only the cat noticed. Then for some reason I finished up by running in place for a count of 100. When that was done I stretched out those calves again and whaddya know, it had been half an hour.

Stretching is a great place to start, especially if you have spent your entire life ignoring or hating your body. Once upon a time I would wake up in the morning and do stretches and light calisthenics for nearly an hour every day - like everything else, I let it go in the depression. Like a precursor to yoga, simple stretching allows you to get to know your body, bit by bit, and learn what it is capable of. You learn what muscles feel like and how they move and connect. You figure out how far you can bend and what parts get in your way.

By the way, it’s okay to grab hold of that pooch and move it up or down or otherwise out of the way as you bend and flex. It’s a part of you. Quit pretending it doesn’t exist. Get to know it. Touch yourself and accept the fact that it is there. The embarrassment will fade with time.

Stretch everything. Head to toe. And I mean literally, fingers and toes, the arch of your foot, inner thighs, your neck and shoulder muscles, and the good old gluteus maximus. Eventually you learn your own body and you will discover that it is capable of more than you think. It moves, it supports; it’s graceful and it’s beautiful.

You will get better. In time you’ll find that you can reach to tie your own shoes again or that you don’t get that pinchy feeling in your hip or back when you’re walking or standing for a long time. Some hygienic necessities become easier to perform. Even better, eventually you might even want to walk more, because it doesn’t hurt so damn much. And besides, you’re already up and dressed out, right?

As I am not an exercise professional, I can’t tell you what to do or how to do it. Like everything else I talk about, do your research. Don’t just jump into it because you think stretching is so easy. Done improperly, you CAN hurt yourself. Some sources recommend against stretching first thing in the morning, like I used to do. You need to warm up your muscles, you need to breathe, and you need to know how to not stretch too far. Check the internet or the library, check with your doctor, or find a trainer if you can. When I started stretching seriously for the first time, many years ago, I picked up a book that I would still recommend: Stretching by Bob Anderson. It has been out for decades, so it should be easy to get at the library, too.

A last word about stretching... it can be very meditative too. You are focusing on your breath, counting slowly, moving gently. I haven’t tried this myself, but after taking a couple of yoga classes a while back, I can see the appeal of putting on some soothing music and adding some kind of aromatherapy to the session. That way you could meditate and move at the same time. Just a thought.

So that’s it. That’s what I’m doing to begin being healthy at my size - stand up, get dressed, stretch a little. It’s a ridiculously easy goal, and I can do that. So let’s move!

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