It really is possible to change or alter learned behavior. I found that out firsthand this past year. Let me back-up a sec and give you some background.
In June of 2017 my dad was diagnosed with coronary artery disease. He was 85 at the time and far more energetic then most twenty-five year olds. He has an excellent doctor who quickly took action. I’m happy to report that after surgery, he’s feeling great.
You need to understand that both of parents are and always have been very healthy. This was the first time my dad had ever been hospitalized in my lifetime, and other than a diagnoses of diabetes in his 60’s, he has for the most part been in excellent peak health (mom too, thank god). So you can imagine how terrifying this was for us….and what a huge wake-up call it was for me. I’d seen my weight spiral (as I have for most of my adult life) and although I exercised, I wasn’t exactly working out very hard. Then a few short weeks after my dad’s hospital stay I went for my own yearly physical. For a gal like me who has had LOW blood pressure all her life, to be told by the doctor that it was high, was the final straw. I had to do something.
I’ve always been the justifier. To myself, about my weight, and about every single morsel I put in my mouth. If I walk on the treadmill for 30 minutes, I can have that bag of candy (or so I reasoned). I justified this warped mindset for no other reason than it worked for me. My clothes got tighter….they must have ALL shrunk in the dryer. Right? Damn dryer. But it took my dad’s health scare, my high blood pressure – and an admittedly gruesome picture of myself – to fuel my fire.
In November of 2017 I started Weight Watchers. I’m no stranger to this program. I’ve come back repeatedly because it works. But for me – for THIS time – it was more about something holding me accountable for the crap I continued to shove down my throat. It was about getting on track and staying there; no compromise. So I forged ahead….I was good during Thanksgiving and Christmas….good every week thereafter. And slowly (and I do mean slowly), the weight started to come off. Because I’m a big justifier, I made myself toe the Weight Watchers line Monday through Friday, and although I strayed on the weekends, I didn’t stray far. I stopped eating red meat (except on rare occasions), vowed to eat more vegetables and fruit every day, and generally embraced this clean way of eating.
But this isn’t really about the program or my eating. What really happened was that my mindset began to change and I finally started to move. REALLY MOVE. My treadmill workouts became 60 minutes long (or longer), and I incorporated strength training, hiking, and walks outside with the hubby. For over a year, I have religiously worked out 5-6 days per week, for at least an hour each day (usually more). I’ve lost over 25 pounds – and I wish I’d lost more – but this is working for me. My body is changing, and that’s a good thing. Of course, I’ve taken weeks off at a time (both with eating and exercise) for vacation. I admittedly ate my weight in chips during a girl’s weekend in July. That said, I’m very, very good about staying on task….about 95% of the time.
How does she do it, you might ask? Well she doesn’t have kids at home any longer; kids who insist on sweet stuff and salty stuff and the like. She now lives in a house with an overflow of vegetables….no chips, no fattening snacks. She has a husband who is not the least bit picky about what he eats, as long as he gets a few beers in each evening. And let’s be real here for a minute, just like me the hubby has packed on a few pounds over the years. He’s still very hot (he’d kill me for saying that), but he’s right with me in the getting healthy department. Honestly….he’s a big reason why I’ve stayed on task for so long. He makes this lifestyle change of mine easy.
So yes….learned behavior (such as laziness, overeating, and the like) CAN be overcome. Or at the very least it can be challenged. I’m still lazy. I still like to be horizontal on the couch reading or watching TV. I still don’t enjoy working out….but I do enjoy the changes I’ve seen in my body. And strangely enough I feel guilty when I don’t work out. I have muscles now. My clothes hang on me. I have purchased a few new things, but I’m still hanging on to my “bag lady” jeans. For some reason it feels good to wear them….and to constantly need to tug them upright. I might even need to purchase a belt…for the first time in like 25 years! And if you’re wondering, yes …my blood pressure has gone down. In fact, at times it’s TOO low, which is the downside of being so determined to push myself to the extreme.
I’m resigned to the understanding that this lifestyle I’ve embraced over the past year will remain until the day I take my last breath. I refuse to refer to it as a “diet”. Diets have an end date. My lifestyle change does not. Sure, I’d love the idea of going off the rails and eating huge portions and candy every night. And I admit quite easily that I do have the occasional bucket of popcorn (with butter). I also have dessert every night (the 100-calorie cookie packets are my favorite). I’m really not sacrificing that much to be leaner and healthier and (hopefully) live longer. I have the weekdays to buckle down and behave, and on the weekends the hubby and I have a date night and we eat out. We also go to the gym together, which makes working out a whole lot more appealing.
This past year has been about change, but it’s also been about balance. About being gentle with one’s self. About listening to my body. I won’t ever be a size 6 and that’s really okay. Hopefully, this lifestyle change of mine will extend my life and I’ll be a vivacious 80-something just like my parents are. I doubt I could ask for anything more.