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Beware of frail foundations.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Hey, sparkpals! It's been a while, I know. Believe me, I've been meaning to write a blog for quite a while now. And I started many times. Only to be stopped by my lack of writing self-confidence. Do you have that? It's this kind of inside-the-brain meter that goes up and down depending on whether you feel you can actually create a good piece of writing or a bunch of nonsense. Ok. Now you know what happens to me when I'm quiet...

But eventually all of us spark-veterans come back here to blog our hearts out. And what brings us here is usually a search for something. For motivation maybe. For the sparkfriends we've missed. Or for the lost spark. Or for reassurance that there are more people out there who go through the same ups and downs we do.

Because we all do. We all have our good days that we exercise and eat right and feel confident that we can do this until our very last breath on earth. Followed by much darker days that we don't even feel like trying or, worse, we don't even care. Until we come to our senses and begin the cycle all over again.

And with every cycle we learn something new. We discover new truths about ourselves and the health road we've traveled, we pinpoint mistakes that we've made and we seek for solutions. It's part of the maintenance process. Re-gaining and re-losing are also part of it.

Five years after beginning this adventure, I realized another mistake I had made. I had built my weight loss and weight maintenance story on a fragile foundation. Back in 2011, I fell in love with exercise. The fitter and stronger I became, the more I loved it. It made my weight loss effort so much easier and it just felt soooo good! I became addicted to it. Lots of cardio, all kinds of vigorous workouts, bootcamps, weights. Even injuries couldn't stop me. I continued exercising consistently long after I had reached my lowest weight. I was in my late thirties and I felt stronger, healthier and younger than ever!

And then... life got in the way. Yeah, it's in the habit of doing just that... Usually in a messy way. In times when you think you have it all figured out and when the ugly thought of backsliding crosses your mind, you wonder "what could possibly go wrong?" And you miss the whisper coming from the universe: "Challenge accepted!"

Everyday life changed in many unpredictable ways. The list of people who needed my help grew larger. Their needs changed. Supportive parents turned to old people in need. Kids turned to teenagers, maybe with less practical needs but so many more emotional, psychological and social ones.

And then there's the body. I turned 40. And thankfully, I still feel strong and healthy. The muscles and lungs have a good memory and even if you let them slack a bit, they'll remember eventually. But we can't push them to their limits forever. The new decade I entered, plus some old injuries, plus a herniated disc, strongly imposed that I make changes.

And the cornerstone of my weight maintenance structure cracked. The foundation was frail. The building could collapse bringing back all the lost weight that had been kept away.

Because changes in movement have to be accompanied by changes in eating. Which is not always an easy thing to do. I mean, that's everybody's weak spot, right? Food choices, not exercise. And when you've been used to a certain way of eating for so many years, with your occasional cheats and your known slips of emotional over-eating, it's really difficult to get yourself to square one and start experimenting all over again. Add an age crisis of epic proportions to all of the above and you have a recipe for maintenance failure. Thankfully, one that I'm trying to deal with and not let it win!

So, here I am, trying to find a new balance. Realizing past mistakes and trying not to repeat them. An army-inspired exercise schedule or a training regime that resembles an Olympic athlete's is not a strong base for weight maintenance.

I'll say it once more even though I may sound like a broken record sometimes. Whatever we decide to do to lose weight, it has to be for life. It has to be something that can last. Not all of us will make the same changes. We're different. Food tracking is not for everyone and not everybody is meant to become a marathon runner. We'll find our ways. But they have to be sustainable. They have to become the rock-solid foundations of your life-long maintenance strategy.

So choose them wisely.

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