TTBWP1 W1D2: It’s not always about looks

When the magazines spend so much time focused on the external results and benefits of a healthy diet and exercise–a smaller waist and clothing size, looking better in and out of clothes, legitimate six-pack abs, or whatever–it’s easy to lose track of why we really need to integrate regular workouts and better food choices into our lifestyles. Sure, we give lip service to the goals of improving our health and preventing the diseases of the sedentary and overweight, but most of us who aren’t currently suffering from diabetes, sleep apnea, coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, or joint pain probably don’t think those things could happen to us. I believe that most women who are trying to lose weight are just doing it in hopes of getting into a size 2, 4, or 6 or possibly to be able to announce a socially-acceptable, LOW scale weight when asked, and most men on the diet wagon hopped on to unload a beer belly and see some abs again.

There is nothing necessarily wrong with having a superficial goal based on an improvement in your outer appearance, but it may not be enough to get you to your goal when you are slammed at work and with social engagements and the gym is looking SO unappealing, or when your co-worker decides to bring in two flats of doughnuts to celebrate his birthday. If you also happen to be a rather deeper thinker with a social conscience, you might even feel GUILTY for setting purely aesthetic goals or motivations. I know that I cringe with horror at the thought that I might have anything in common with the shallow wenches from high school and today’s celebrity gossip columns whose lives seemed to revolve around looking right instead of doing right.

Indeed, I’ve noticed that the times when I find my motivation flagging have coincided with the times when I have nothing but appearance-based goals. When you are already within your acceptable weight and body fat range and everyone around you thinks you are just fine, where is the driving force needed to get through that final stretch? And what about when you HAVE reached your goal and are faced with the realization that you need to keep on eating right and working out for the rest of your life if you want to keep your results? What will motivate you to get up, pull on your workout clothes, and trek to the gym (or your living room) to sweat for 30-60 minutes a day when you no longer have the exciting prospect of a drop in scale weight to bolster your resolve?

A recent conversation with my high school friend Heather reminded me of why I really need to stick with the food and exercise outside of the aesthetic side effects. When I was 20, I developed sciatica in my lower back and legs that made walking, bending over, climbing–just about any activity–a painful trial. An MRI revealed that I had a congenital defect in a lower vertebrae that caused it to rub against my sciatic nerve. This was when I was in the worst shape of my life–completely sedentary at college and at my highest weight at nearly 160 lbs. I know this may not sound like that much these days, but when you consider that I come from a long line of lightweight ancestors with small frames, even 30 extra pounds was putting too much stress on my skeleton. And since I never exercised to strengthen my core and back muscles, I made the problem even worse. When almost two months went by without any improvement, I worried that this would be with me forever.

I eventually healed myself by becoming more active (joining the military tends to force that upon you whether you want it to or not!), dropping some of that excess poundage, and getting stronger, but I know that if I ever let myself go, I am more than likely going to see that sciatica come back, and trust me…that is not something I ever want to feel again.

I didn’t appreciate my body’s ability to move and bend and perform even the most basic actions until I injured something as pivotal to all of these things as my back. I’ve had my first light taste of chronic back pain already; I’d like to think that I am smart enough to learn from my experience and take steps to prevent a more severe case before it’s too late.

Dig around your medical history and look through your family tree. Chances are that you will find at least one severe health issue in there that could have been prevented with regular exercise and a healthy diet. Then factor in the money needed to treat those ailments and the cost in time and quality of life and add those to your motivation tank the next time you feel like you are running out of fuel.

I’ve got sciatica, lung cancer, strokes, diabetes, post-menopausal weight gain, and osteoporosis in my lineage–all of them preventable if I just stick with a fit lifestyle. How about you?

– Yourself Fitness Flexibility (30 min)
– Forza drills (30 min)
– Forza routine (30 min)

Calories burned (Polar HRM): 573

M1: 40 g oatmeal, 40 g raisins, 3 egg whites, 1/2 c. sauteed spinach
M2: Pineapple soy protein smoothie
M3: 4 oz. steak salsa verde (from Dream Dinners), 1 c. snap pea stir fry veggie mix, 1/3 c. oatmeal
M4: 1 c. longans, 4 oz. tilapia filet
M5: Fish tacos (2 corn tortillas, 4 oz. tilapia, 1/2 tomato, 3 c. mixed iceberg lettuce and spinach salad, 2 T. salsa)
M6: 1 c. light soy milk, 1/2 scoop chocolate protein powder, 1 corn on the cob

Stats: 1564 calories (44% carb/ 40% pro/ 16% fat ; 21.7 g fiber)

7 thoughts on “TTBWP1 W1D2: It’s not always about looks

  1. Thanks Maggie,
    This is a post I really needed today. When none of us really look like airbrushed models, it is hard to hold on to the real reasons to hit the gym. Well spoken

  2. Great points to consider. I’ve recently hit my original goal weight and have been struggling with motivation. Reminding myself of other goals is paramount to staying consistent.

    I really enjoy your blog. Congratulations on your recent wedding and I look forward to seeing how you deal with the no clothes buying challenge.

    Did you make the shirt in your new banner? I like it!

  3. Excellent post, Maggie!

    When life got incredibly busy a few months ago, I crashed and lost my motivation to work out and watch what I was eating. I recently realized one of the main reasons for this was because of my goals… I was way too concerned about the external results and wasn’t concentrating enough on why I really should lose the weight and get myself back in shape (so much cancer in my family!). Your post really helped me reevaluate my goals and to think about why the health aspect is so important to keep in mind.

  4. Plenty of food for thought! :em19:

    Family genetics was part of my reason for a healthier lifestyle. Let’s see… In my family it’s colon cancer, arthritis, hypertension, heart disease, alcholism, stroke, depression and other cancers. I truly believe proper nutrition and a healthy lifestyle (exercise) can help prevent these. I already have arthritis but staying active has helped to deter the pain and lack of mobility.

    I know how you feel about running, but you might want to cosider submitting this entry to the CRN site. They’re always looking for great articles that provoke thought.

  5. You hit this one right on the head. Congratulations on a very well-put post!

    I too have a BAD back. My spine is actually broken, in a condition called spodylolithesis. I wrote about it on t-nation at the beginning of the year if you’re interested.

    My back is one of the main reasons I workout all the time. It hurts too much to sit all the time and I get stiff very quickly, so, the gym or outdoors is my place of serenity (and pain reduction).

    The other main reason is that I have always loved the look of muscle. When I was younger (like 12) I watched American Gladiators and wanted to be one. My name was going to be “Statica” LOL (Because it was very dry where I lived and I always was shocking people with static electricity! hahah)

  6. A few years ago, my mom came to visit me. she could barely get up the stairs to mu condo on the second floor. She had bad ankles, bad knees and bad back. She was 58, 5’3″ and weighed 230 pounds. My dad was already dead from Cirrhosis. Then I ran into your site, and i saw your transformation and then looked at myself. I was going down the same path and i didnt like the destination.
    So I gave up sodas (I dont drink alcohol, so that wasnt a factor) and changed my diet. I went running, and almost collapsed after half a mile. I started a workout routine, balanced diet and lost 30 pounds in one year. I can now run 3.5 miles (Runninig and I hate each other. Thank god for iPods) and I organized a company soccer team. I have gotten other people in my company to start working out and we encourage other. My main motivation is my health. I want to be able to play with my grandchildren one day. That I look very good for my age is just a bonus.
    I read your blog religeously, Maggie, and I thank you for your thoughts, your research, your candor and your honesty. You honestly have inspired me, and guided me without ever knowing that you did. I wish you and Chris happiness and a long, healthy life.
    Thank you.

  7. Great post! I have a bad back (from an old, self-induced, injury in a karate class) that can be more than inconvenient. I like your tip of getting an MRI of it…I will check with my doctor. Part of my impulse to get in shape is a combination of realizing that I have let myself ‘go’. My wife is also on side, she is Canadian-Chinese, what often goes ‘under the radar’ for a lot of doctors is that the risk of diabetes among Asians is a lot higher at the same BMI as other races. Hence a lot of pre-diabetes goes undiagnosed, IMHO, I first came across this factoid in You! the Owners Manual. The blogs are great and have great advice… I am a long way from your level of fitness at this time…but it does inspire…congratulations on transforming yourself from a geek to a … well … a sleek geek.

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