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Sunday, June 01, 2014

On Weight and Walking and The Wolf

Jean Sexton muses:

All my adult life I have struggled with my weight. Sometimes I think I simply smell good food and the calories waft into my body. I like food, to be honest. I was going to list the categories I like, but I like them all. I eat to celebrate and as I am generally a happy person, I celebrate frequently. I eat when I am sad and that generally cheers me up, leading me to celebrate. It is a vicious cycle.

I also like to cook and bake. Unfortunately, most of my recipes are inherited and are designed for a family of four, two of whom are fairly active, and there would be leftovers for another day of eating for that same family. That makes eight meals at a minimum. I was trying to make sure it wouldn't spoil, so I'd eat large portions. Others who lived in the same household would also eat even larger portions, so I thought I was doing well.

Add to that my job (and my inclination) is generally sedentary. At the library, if I were wandering around, I wasn't doing my job. At home I relaxed by reading. Once I got a home computer, I spent hours working on databases of daylilies and movies, playing SFB Galactic Conquest, and exploring the wide world of online information. I proofread things for ADB and maintained peace on the BBS.

Excess food and lack of exercise meant I gained weight, far more than was good for me. And I wasn't happy toward the end of my time in North Carolina, so my sanctuaries were my office at work and my home office at the house. Even less exercise and eating more "comfort food" added up.

When I moved to Amarillo, I promised myself that things would change. I couldn't have a cat, not easily, because the apartment door opened directly to the outside and a cat could (and would) dart out to explore. A young, healthy cat would also be able to escape at work, directly out to a busy street. However, I could get a dog. I would be forced by the apartment rules to have the right sized dog for an apartment -- no Great Danes or other large dogs with the 50-pound weight limit the apartment complex imposed.

But before I could have a dog, I had to have an apartment, not a collection of boxes that made my living space look like a room surrounded by a warehouse. It took three months (through July) to empty the storage unit of even more boxes and it had to be my highest priority as it was money added to my rent and the half-price deal for storage ended in July. By August I had cleaned out the "public" part of my home. It was time to get a dog. By October I found a dog at the Amarillo SPCA.

I started walking with my fierce little Markie. I walked him regularly, around my apartment building. Sometimes I included going around two buildings. Markie earned the nickname "The Official Pace Dog of ADB" as he was much, much faster than me and would haul me along after him. I added in one walk around the apartment complex and struggled with that walk. I'd get a stitch in my side about halfway around. Slowly I started losing a little bit of weight.

When Markie got sick and passed away, I was devastated and fell back into the "eat food and feel better" habit -- not the best idea. Still, I soon adopted a long-haired chihuahua named Chaz who quickly informed me that his name was really Wolf, he was to be referred to as "The Wolf," and I could maybe call him Wolfie en famille. We started walking around the couple of buildings and around the short block at work. Once a day I would struggle with the walk around the complex, but I noticed it was getting a little easier.

Then I noticed that some of my friends were posting how many steps they were taking each day. I felt sure I was walking a lot; not as much as they were walking, as I knew they were healthy and active, but still a lot. So I ordered a pedometer and proudly looked at my steps. With all of my walking, I was taking around 7,000 steps with fewer than 2,000 of those being aerobic. I quickly realized that without The Wolf and Markie I had been taking far fewer than 5,000 steps a day. I found out that was indeed "sedentary" and decided to try to walk 7,500 steps and then 8,000.

Now I am trying to take at least 10,000 steps a day. I don't always make it, especially if the weather is bad. (Rain makes Wolf very unhappy and I can't bring myself to make him miserable.) I find if I exercise, it lowers my appetite, thus cutting back on what I eat. The Wolf is amiable to walking with me, even if he doesn't really need to "go." I feel safe walking at night with him at my side. Slowly the pounds are going away.

It is hard work for me. I like reading and listening to music. I like working on the computer. I don't like exercising. However, I have the reason now of "The Wolf needs a walk," and that seems to be the motivation I needed. I post my steps on my page on Facebook each day so as to keep myself honest. Exercise will always be a struggle with me, I suspect. However, when The Wolf looks at me and I know he wants to go on his "Long Walk," how could I deny him that? As a result, I may never be thin, but I will be thinner and healthier. And that means that I'll be around ADB longer, and probably more productive. Happy dance!