Saturday, December 24, 2011

2012: end of the world or new beginning?

It's been a little quiet on this blog for the past month, so apologies for my distractedness.  December was a whirlwind month with many elves spending many hours getting ready for January (our Christmas).  I finally clocked out Friday, December 22, celebrated Christmas and got on a plan with my family for a week in Mexico.  It was a great trip, which was oddly educational.  We spent most of the time traipsing on old Mayan ruins in the Yucatan and visiting villages and cities on the Western part of this Mexican state.  After that, we had two days of R&R on the Caribbean coast.   It was an amazing trip, and there is now one more culture (the Mayan) of which I am now only mostly ignorant.

Right around 12/22, I got weighed, and I was very much at goal weight (yay me!).  From there, I had three days of Christmas merrymaking followed by seven days of Mexican/Maya cuisine -- lots of homemade tortillas and tortilla chips.  I was disallowed from exercising for SIX WHOLE DAYS.  Fate was indeed cruel.  I was not able to start getting back on physical activity until this past Saturday.  This was longest stretch without a workout in the better part of 10 months.  I was half convinced that my failure to exercise was going to accelerate the Mayan prophecy of the end of the world.

Dear Earth:  I'm sorry that my failure to
work out for six days caused a planetary event.
Will try harder next time.  
Yet, I am still breathing along with all of the other Earthlings, so I guess my lack of working out did not actually cause the planet to plunge into catastrophe.  I have not been weighed in yet, but I am guessing about a 3-5 pound gain.  Hardly another reason to predict the end of the world.

As a side note, my tour guide to the Mayan ruins informed us that the Mayans never said the world would end on Dec 21, 2012.  They merely had to reset their odometer and use it to mark a new beginning.  That sounds much more encouraging than the whole planetary destruction thing.

This vacation I did my noble best to try to force myself to disconnect from job, diet, and workout routines just a little bit.  I even managed to go a full day without having my iPhone in easy reach.  This is not small achievement for yours truly.

But now it's January, and it's time to get my game ON.

There are many who would criticize the premise of January resolutions as useless or bad.  I am not one of them.  I love treating January as the start of a new year and the opportunity for new beginnings.  I personally believe that any time we can create an internal trigger to stimulate a new behavior change effort, why not.  As long as we keep the resolution in perspective and not get down on ourselves when we don't completely change every single aspect of our lives in the course of three weeks, resolutions can be a very good prod.

So I start this new year 2012 with the best of intentions and the most positive of beliefs.  I try to keep my resolutions pretty basic, so here you go:

  1. Getting my food patterns back on course.  I want to make sure that I have a good stable of menus and meal ideas as I go into the new year so I can resist the temptation to stray little-by-little into less healthy territory.  I've got my tracker out this morning, and I'm going to try to keep it out for the next few weeks.  It's a great course correction tool.
  2. Continue working on my efforts not to snack after dinner.  Made good progress on this at the end of 2011, and I have a great opportunity to build on that progress.  My primary tool here will probably be some more public commitments via Twitter where I mark my progress at the end of each day for a week.  Worked great the last time I did it.  
  3. Find someway to up my exercise output by 10% to 15% by adding some new activities.  Planning here is still nebulous.  
My biggest New Years resolution has nothing to do with weight.  It has to do with my outlook and what I show other people.  

My #1 2012 resolution:  smile more.  

What do you have loaded up for the new year?



Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Father Weight Watchers: Part 2. The other side...

In my last post, I talked about my aspirations to be a useful role model to my kids in promoting a healthy and sustainable lifestyle -- all good stuff and all the right intentions.  Yet, I am also cognizant of the fact that I need to check myself in front of them.

There is no doubt that childhood obesity has become a major health issue that seems likely to get worse.  However, it is also the case that eating disorders also represent a significant and growing issue among kids.  It sometimes feels that we parents are navigating between two perilous health issues, both of which can have a debilitating effect.  My only hope and dream for my kids, and all kids for that matter, is that they can find a balance in a healthy and sustaining lifestyle.  It's a difficult balancing act for parents, and I've found it to be a difficult one for me.

Let's start with me and how I am.  Everyone who knows me well would be pretty quick to point out that I can tend to be a little over-the-top in how I approach life.  When in doubt, my inclination is to charge up the hill with both guns firing.  I am also pretty vocal and open about what's on my mind and how I'm feeling.  I am very much one who wears his cardiovascular system on his sleeve. 

This has certainly been the case when it comes to my weight.  For the most part, the behaviors I am modelling tend to be pretty good ones.  My kids see me eating healthy meals while also finishing the great majority of what is on my plate.  They see me going to the gym, going for walks, and going for bike rides.  My operating assumption is that this is a big net positive.

However, I am also aware of the fact that I can be a bit obsessive about my weight.  I am no stranger to vocal self-flagellation after a bad weigh-in.  I am also aware of the fact that I do talk about losing weight and keeping weight off.  I worry that my kids can see me becoming anxious if and when I'm falling off program.

Me in my kitchen...
I am also no stranger to the twisted world of body image.  Like a lot of people who have lost a bunch of weight, I cannot help but be somewhat enamored of looking better than I used to.  One way this manifests itself is in my preening about in tailored fashion gear.  I know that I will occasionally sneak looks at my reflection in a street-side window wondering if my pants make my derriere look fat.  For the most part, these are fleeting thoughts that come and go pretty quickly, almost always without verbal commentary.  But what if my daughters could read my mind?  They do know me awfully well.  Am I inadvertently setting a criteria for how they should look rather than how healthy they should be?

All of my concerns are amplified by knowing what kind of environment my kids live in outside of our home.  They live in a town where obesity is far from the norm.  They, in fact, live in a place sometimes referred to as Stepford, CT.  I see their schoolmates, and they are almost universally thin and fashionable.  It sometimes looks like Mean Girls, the massively extended version.  Blond and thin is very much the aspiration in my town.  I cannot help but believe that the peer pressure the girls in their schools face is to look a very particular way.  I cannot help but recognize that this peer pressure has a truly unfortunate side that manifests itself in a host of negative ways.

So there you have it.  My daughters live in a very thin town, and their dad is the CEO of Weight Watchers and who is prone to bouts of self-obsession about how he looks.  Pretty scary, and something I really need to be aware of and to take seriously.

The good news is that I am unbelievably lucky to have two daughters who are confident, independent and not afraid to laugh at themselves.  I cannot imagine having half the confidence they possess when I was their age.  I am also lucky that they routinely laugh at and deride me for all of my many peccadilloes.  They know that I am a walking midlife crisis, and they routinely mock me for it.  They can never know how grateful I am for their goodhearted scorn. 

For my part, I do my very best to keep my weird obsessive thoughts locked in my weird head, because frankly, most of them really don't need to see the light of day.  When I do talk about food, I studiously attempt to talk about it as fuel the leads to health.  I NEVER ride them about eating too much, and I try incredibly hard to be careful of the whole "eat your vegetables" routine.  Frankly, my wife is better at that this than me, so I let her take the heavy lifting on this topic (among many others).

Ultimately, as a father, it's my responsibility to be a healthy role model for my kids.  It's also my responsibility to be a father, not a peer who shares every self-doubt in front of them.  My aspiration is to demonstrate common sense and confidence.  When I'm with my kids, my job is to not be selfish and self-absorbed, but rather to be present for them.  I am a thousand miles from perfect on this front, but I know it's important and I know I need to work constantly to seek to achieve this state.  If I can, then maybe they will forgive me my fancy threads.