I really didn’t want to. I pulled another 9 hour day at work yesterday, and our A/C was (and still is) on the fritz. The last thing I wanted to do was spend a half hour sweating. But on Sunday while looking at our calendars, I vowed I wouldn’t let another week pass without exercising. I told myself, “It’s just a walk. 15 minutes out and then you can come right back. Plus the baby needs to get outside.” I even told my husband I needed him to tell me to just do it, to which her wryly said, “Get out there and just do it.”
So, I changed my clothes, filled up our water bottles with ice water and put my son in his stroller trike. I set the timer on my phone, turned on the tunes, and headed out. The nice thing about our neighborhood is that there are any number of ways you can mix up your route. I decided, “Let’s walk to the park, baby boy.” We did not take a leisurely pace. I was hot and sweaty and completely winded. I hated it, but found that I was able to push myself harder than I had in a long while.
For the final home stretch back to the house, I ran. It seemed like the distance didn’t get shorter until it did. My body hurt and I wanted to stop, but I couldn’t let my son see me give up even if he is just a year old and wouldn’t have any memory of our jaunt. When we got back in the house I was so wiped I thought I might collapse. It had been so long since I had done any challenging physical activity. As I cooled off though, I realized my mood had altered. I felt confident, I felt proud of myself for going 30 minutes instead of just 15, and, most importantly, I didn’t feel so damn tired. I actually had the energy to get through the rest of the night.
I thought, “This is why exercise is stressed so much at therapy.” Before I had the baby, I would take a long lunch once a week to head to barre class offered on campus where I work. I would also use the rowing machine at home a couple times a week. I have lots of excuses why I stopped. I’m sure most are the same ones other people use.
I’ve been blessed with a naturally petite frame, but I have a deep fear of becoming obese. It’s in the genetics. There are just too many in my family that are overweight, and I see how much it affects their quality of life, especially the women. We also have incidences of diabetes, hypertension, lots of cancers, as well as mental illness. All of these are very good reasons to do my best to take care of myself physically.
Even though I loved being pregnant, I frequently broke down in tears at my ever growing size. I was scared I would put on too much weight, and never get it back off. My doctor assured me at every appointment though that I was doing very well and not gaining too much too fast. Once I had the baby I wore my postpartum binder religiously, and breastfed to lose the baby fat. By the time I went back to work 11 weeks later, I was back down to my pre-pregnancy weight, 120 lbs. I was delighted.
And then I got sick. I spent lots of time in the doctors offices trying to find out what was wrong. I saw the weight come off even more than I planned. I got down to 109 lbs and a size 2. I was worried what it all meant, but I was also secretly ecstatic. Eventually, all they could say was that I got sick due to anxiety, after all I was a new mom with lots of new worries.
Fast forward a few months and a bipolar diagnosis, I stopped being physically ill all the time and instead dealt with trying to regain stability and find the right medicine combination. Much of the time I alternated from feeling insanely irritable to extremely depressed, and started eating for comfort. I ate like I could eat anything without consequence. Over the last couple months my weight shot up over 130 lbs and could barely fit into a size 4, my normal size. Which brings me to where I am now.
I need to get active again, not just so my clothes will fit right again, but also for my mental health. There’s a clear correlation, for me, that as I gain weight I feel depressed and lack confidence. I have accepted that a size 2 is unreasonable since it was the size I was while very sick. I’m a mother now, and the aim is to have the functional fitness to care for my family. I also need the mood balancing properties that exercise and activity brings.
I’m starting slow with my changes since I want lasting changes and not just a temporary quick fix. The goal these first four weeks is to walk with my son for 15-30 minutes 3 times a week. I’m also trying to cut out soda – regular and diet – and eat more wholesome foods instead of junk food. I hope to gain more energy for my day-to-day activities and to continue on my path of stability. I’m one month stable today, and so now that I’m here it’s time to focus on flourishing.