About six weeks ago in my posting Going Raw- Part One, I wrote about the process I am going through to change from eating cooked foods to eating raw foods. This is all part of a bigger process that I have embarked upon in order to get as healthy as I can. The food area of my life is probably the last major bastion that I am attempting to overcome and, because it has its roots in my childhood, it is proving to be the most difficult.
However, there is another area of my life that I am addressing right now that is having a major impact on my health. This is in the area of exercise. Yes, I know, that’s a four letter word in my vocabulary too!!! I have been struggling with exercise for many years. Which is really annoying to have to admit when I remember being the athletic person that I was in school.
I played on my High School’s netball team (UK equivalent of basketball) in each year of school. In several of those years I was the team captain. I was fanatical about netball and just remembering it, I can feel my adrenaline level soaring. We played netball during the winter season, September through March, which meant we played twice a week as part of our class PE program and then the team would also practice once or twice a week after school. Matches were played on Saturdays.
After graduating from school I went on to a teacher’s training college, and sports and gymnastics continued to be part of the regular curriculum. During my second year of college I “went off the rails” and left to get married. A baby came along quickly and my new lifestyle was very alien to anything I had known up until then. Physical activities disappeared from my life.
Many years and a divorce later I attempted to return to some form of exercise. But I only hiccupped along in fits and starts. I tried aerobics but felt very clumsy and because I am not good at multi-tasking I simply did not have the coordination necessary. I tried working with a personal trainer but it proved to be too expensive, so I just gave up.
By now I had remarried and had another baby at age forty and had not been able to rid my body of the baby weight as I had when I was in my twenties. I think this was when I pretty much gave up on myself for a while and simply indulged in eating what I wanted. The weight slowly crept up. I remember pledging with myself that I would never allow myself to go over two hundred pounds. I sat at two hundred for a few years.
About fifteen years ago, while living in Naples, Italy, I met a wonderful yoga instructor and started practicing yoga with her. I loved the asana’s and working with the breathe. Moving slowly into and maintaining the poses under Meredith’s compassionate instruction, I began to feel somewhat reconnected with my body. “Sun salutations” became my passion along with the “fish” pose. My weight diminished some and I felt healthy for the first time in a long time.
Then in 2004 I moved to Jacksonville, Florida and, in hindsight, I realize that it took me about two to three years to make the big transition from my European culture to the American culture. My exercise pattern got lost in the shuffle for quite a while. Every once in a while I would make a half-hearted effort to implement a walking regime. I love being outside and walking puts me close to God’s creation which allows me to exercise my body and my soul. I also found a good Yoga studio and began going regularly again.
Then I had a shoulder problem. Had to quit yoga while I dealt with that and exercise got away from me again. Once the shoulder healed I finally pushed myself back into yoga but shortly after that I had a knee problem. Six months later I tried to get back into yoga again but found that it re-awakened the knee issue so quit. I tried walking again but the knee was just too much of a problem and, again, I found myself at that quitting-on-me stage.
One day at the beginning of this year I got on the scales and realized that my weight had bloomed to two hundred and sixteen pounds. I felt defeated and at an all-time low with myself. I made the decision to try and go raw – again (I had been dabbling with raw for a few years), or at least vegetarian. But underneath I knew that if I didn’t start exercising I would get nowhere fast. However, I simply could not get myself motivated to do it.
I think God took pity on me – again. He has a habit of doing that from time to time and when I get to the end of my rope, he offers me the beginning of His! But, as usual, He has a funny way of doing it. My husband was hospitalized toward the end of February with chest pains. Long story short: no heart problems but he was finally forced to look at high blood pressure and cholesterol issues and the doctors were serious when they told him to make lifestyle changes. Our diet swung drastically to mainly salads, lots of veggies and fruit, and we cut out most of the carbs.
Within a month or two we both lost weight dramatically. Then I hit a plateau and stayed there and got depressed. Underneath I knew the answer was exercise but I just didn’t want to have to deal with it. Again God came to my rescue in His usual round about way, and in July I was introduced to Wendy, a personal Pilates instructor. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to do Pilates because my only knowledge of this form of exercise was a memory of a friend who used to do it (a much fitter, younger woman!!!), and she would say things like “We were massacred at Pilates class tonight” or “I didn’t think I’d make it through the whole class today.”
I am grateful for the God-incidental way that I got to Wendy, for I’m sure I’d never have taken the leap otherwise. She is a compassionate but relentless instructor with a grand sense of humor. I told her where I was at and she said something like “I guess I’ll have to work you”. I have been doing Pilates twice a week with Wendy since about mid-July. I have pushed below my plateau, not a lot but enough. However what has happened to my body is nothing short of a miracle.
I have a level of sustained energy that I did not have before. My body is so much more flexible and feels very alive. There has been a shift in shape; I cannot explain it any clearer than that. The first major change that I noticed was one day when I went to do up the strap on a pair of shoes and realized I did not have to get into a certain position to “accommodate my stomach” as I leaned down! My tummy has definitely toned and my legs are so much more flexible. I can climb a flight of stairs without feeling breathless.
This week Richard and I are enjoying our traditional week of Thanksgiving in our time share in Orlando. Yesterday afternoon we went to Universal to watch the new Harry Potter movie (which was great by the way!). We walked around for a while before the movie and I noticed that I had no problem keeping up with Richard (he’s over six foot and has a long stride). Nor did I find myself getting breathless keeping up with him and, in fact, I felt quite invigorated. Today we went to Sea World and the same thing happened.
As I sit here typing this post I have to make a confession. I have been wanting to walk on a regular basis for about a month now. The reason I have not is because I did not want to feel tired and breathless or realize that I couldn’t keep a decent pace for long. Yesterday and today have shown me that I can get out there, keep a good pace, and feel really good. I know that this is partly because of the diet changes I have made as well as the regular exercising with Pilates. It is a total change of lifestyle that is allowing me to feel good about myself and to feel so much more healthy. This is what self nurturing is truly about.
In the last few weeks leading up to the change of clocks, I would go out to my lanai and claim my God-time. One day I realized, that even though I had gone out at the same time as usual – about seven o’clock – the morning light had changed. In fact it was not fully light but rather that eerie time of in between when the sun has not quite risen but there is a pallor about the sky.
That was the first time I allowed myself to even consider that summer was ending and autumn was pushing through the door. I sat and watched, and listened. There was absolute silence. Normally as I go out there in the morning, squirrels are rustling through the trees and the birds are beginning to awaken with soft twitters and small trills. But on this morning I noticed the total quiet.
Although I accept the changing of the seasons, after all there’s very little that I can do to stop them changing, I do not like it. In sixty six years, however, I have learned that lesson. I think much of my non-acceptance stems from my British upbringing. In England, once whatever precious little summer that we got was over, then we were always assured of grey cold autumn coming in, followed by an even greyer and colder winter. Grey dooms my heart and soul. I get de-pressed and sad, and I’m just not my usual bright sunny self.
So even though I live in Florida now and the summer blurs into autumn, and winter usually is not so cold (let’s forget about last winter,shall we!!!) and definitely not so grey, I still have an imbedded expectation around this particular change of season, that the grey is about to descend upon me. I am grateful to be living here because I soon realize that autumn-into-winter is not synonymous with grey and cold. In fact, in the almost seven years that I have been here, I remember sunbathing frequently in the “winter” months and reveling in the fact.
So, as I was saying, in these past few weeks I have watched the morning light grow dimmer each day, even though I have gone out there at about the same time. Then, suddenly, about ten days ago I realized that there was barely a glimmer of light. I sat there and had to squint my eyes to make out shapes and forms in the un-light. But then I had the unexpected pleasure of watching the dawn light creep across the sky and in those pre-sunrise moments I began to make out smaller shapes and forms, and the details of leaves, flowers, trees, gazebo, slowly filled themselves in.
Then, in one glorious instant, a shaft of bright light came across the side garden fence and illuminated a slice of the picture in front of me. The trunk of a tree, a few branches, a small angle of the top of the gazebo, all became as clear as if in a naif painting. Moment by moment, my back yard and the woods beyond were suddenly lit up like the opening scene in a live theater. Almost immediately the rustling, the soft twitters, and the small chirps began until there was a full-throated burst of bird song.
Thank you God for the joy and the beauty of your creation. No matter what the season, there is always something wonderful, something awesome, to see and marvel over. I hope I always keep my open eyes and my open heart to appreciate the glory that is our world.