Ah, the South. The smell of the pine trees, the thrill of a cool evening after a storm, and … the fried food. I like to joke with friends in other parts of the country that even the vegetables are chicken-fried. The unfortunate part—for the weight conscious, at least—is that it isn't much of a joke.
Of course, it's easy to eat poorly anywhere if, like me, you tend to spend entirely too much time sitting in front of a computer or behind a desk. If you're not out and about, then any locale is an easy place to gain a little weight, lose a little energy and start to wonder if you might not need to make a trip to the department store and re-outfit your closet.
It's for that reason—a serious study of my energy level, coupled with a furtive glance in the mirror at my waistband—that I decided to hit the Road to Wellness this year. Last year, writer Bingo Holman took many of us down that path, offering advice and experiences as she looked into some clever ways to defeat the demons that come after our health.
This year, we're going to do much the same thing, taking 10 weeks to improve our diets, exercise habits and our ability to relax. At the same time, though, I'd like to add a male perspective to the notion of taking on the road to wellness, while Ms. D will discuss the differences on her "Road," particularly some of the pampering choices she makes.
(Guys are welcome to follow her example and head to the spa or pedicurist for some relaxation, but my approach tends to be sans such services. Unless things change down the "road.")
It seems only right to state my goals before starting this project; you might think about doing the same if you plan to try the Road to Wellness, too.
My No. 1 goal in hitting the road to wellness is to lose about 10 pounds. Might as well be forthright about that. Doing so will get me into some of the clothes that have been relegated to hanging in the back of my closet in the past years. It so happens that one pound a week is a typical recommendation for safe and smart weight loss, so losing 10 in 10 weeks would prove a health accomplishment.
My secondary goal is to carve some time out of a workaholic lifestyle for both exercise and relaxation. That includes walking, biking, heading to the gym and, hopefully, convincing some friends to play some racket sports with me, which is my particular poison. Whether or not I end up on a rugby team or jumping out of a plane by the end of this experiment remains to be seen.
(At this point, it's worth noting that you should consult a doctor before any major changes in diet or exercise.)
Goal: I'm setting a lot of goals here. For week 1, the goal is simply to get (back) into the swing of things. The steps I plan to take are to tweak my diet, get walking and find a few minutes to start taking relaxation seriously again.
Diet: Choosing good food over bad is probably my No. 1 problem, with stress and lack of exercise both tying for a close second. I'm eating on the run and, thus, not eating right. Put too much junk into your system, and you're asking your body to process a lot even if you do hit the gym or the pavement on a regular basis.
But here's the deal—I'm not counting carbs. Just not gonna do it. And I refuse to order my pasta salad without pasta or a sandwich without bread. I don't even want to count calories or fat grams, much less carbs.
Instead, my approach to losing weight will sound a little more like the advice I could imagine my grandfather, the dockworker and truck driver, would have offered: "Eat less junk."
My plan this week is a two-parter. First, I'm going to cut out the sugared sodas and tea. I'm going to put milk in my coffee in the morning and have unsweet tea, water or sport tea throughout the day. If I add any sugar to tea it'll be a tiny amount for flavor. (I know I'm not going to give up beer, for instance, so I figure I'd let go of these empty soda and sugar calories that occur earlier in the day and all week.)
Second, I'm going to cut way back on the fried foods, particularly those that I know to have been fried in hydrogenated oils, which means pretty much any fast food and nearly any chip that's fried and bagged, aside from "all natural" approaches you'd find at Rainbow Co-Op. (There's also a line of Frito-Lay products that are now labeled Organic, most of which don't use hydrogenated oils.) Those chips—particularly Mexican-style tortilla chips—are the bane of my existence and have got to go. (Seven ounces of tortilla chips have 56 grams of total fat and 11 grams of saturated fat. You think I can't eat seven ounces of chips in one visit to a Mexican restaurant?)
But, I read once about someone who lost a ton of weight in a short period of time, and they said the key to sticking with their plan was to have a day off. I thought that sounded brilliant. So, Fridays are my day off in the sense that I can eat anything I feel needs to be eaten and even indulge in an afternoon Coke. The point is to build into the regimen a little cheating so we have something to look forward to.
Exercise: I'm going to take it easy this first week and just walk. Three times this week, I'll walk for at least 20 minutes around the neighborhood and, at least once, I'll try to spend a little more intensive time on the treadmill. Done right, walking around the neighborhood can be both exercise and contemplative relaxation. Keep a steady pace, take a bottle of water with you and smile at your neighbors.
Relaxation: In a future column, I'd like to talk a little more about what I've learned in the past about meditation and other techniques for disciplining the mind—some of it seems like really useful stuff. For the first week, though, I think the key is going to be just finding a place in the house where I can relax and de-cluttering it. That's right—the road to wellness includes some cleaning. For me it's going to be tackling the spare room that I call my "office" and getting it in shape by moving boxes into the attic, straightening all my electronic junk and generally making it a bit more presentable. By week two or three it may turn into my private Zen meditation station; for now, I'd like to turn it into something other than a storage closet.
Thought: It's a slow start, but it's a start. And there's a chance I'll be a pound lighter when I pound out next week's column.
Ms. D's Two Cents
OK, Mr. T is dragging me kickin' and screamin' down the Road to Wellness. He just put skim milk into my nice cup of Earl Grey tea—to make a point, I guess. But between you and me, it tasted fine. Don't tell him, though. I can't stand that self-satisfied boy-smirk. One thing I must give up immediately are those delicious vanilla ice coffees I drink a lot of mornings at Cups. Yum. But I know they're filled with whole milk and way too much sugar. I must say, though, that the lovely barristas over there have started making me a skinny version that's almost as good—and I think it's going to replace the other one painlessly. Otherwise, I'll watch my food intake better; I'm not a fad diet person, so none of that no-carb B.S. for me, either.
Like T, I need exercise, which I've given up to too much work. I, too, will walk three times this week. I also need to get back into yoga religiously—call it multi-tasking; you get exercise and relaxation all at once. Alas, I'm not a fan of fast "aerobic" yoga, as I call it, and my favorite yoga class at the Y (Suzanne's) takes place at 5:30 p.m., which on my work calendar is too early to leave the office most days. So I must find another "slow" (Iyengar) yoga class that suits my schedule better (8 p.m., anyone?), or do a better job of breaking out my Yoga in a Box cards at home.
So, that's it for me. Consider me on the road, too. Hopefully, Mr. T and I won't have any major altercations on the shoulder somewhere. I'll keep you posted.
— Ms. D
A friend and I decided last week (previous to reading this) that we probably needed to get off the shoulder of the proverbial road and back onto the path of wellness.
Currently, I plan to work on exercise first. I've found in the past that whenever I start a physical routine, diet changes and lifestyle changes come naturally. That's just me and I realize others respond differently. But, I have noticed I immediately stop consuming alot of sin foods and naturally prefer a more nutritious alternative.
So far, I've managed to work in 3 serious Ashtanga sessions (yoga). That was enough to make me realize my desk job is killing me! I could not easily relax into positions that were easily achieved less than a year ago. Does anyone out there need a house boy so I can get away from this cubicle? ;-) Seriously though... We upgraded our cable package to include DVR which is Time Warner's version of TiVO. I have set three different yoga shows to record automatically and can perform them at my leisure. It's by far a great thing to be able to choose "when" I want to watch the show rather than at the programmed times (usually 5am or earlier).
I've also managed to get in some actual meditation time. This seems to be the biggest challenge for most... Finding time to do "nothing." But, my mind and body definitely appreciate it.
We are also planning (starting today) to do a couch-to-5k plan and to take advantage of our company gym (again). I've always wanted to jog but found it tedious compared to cycling. As 30 approaches, I realize it's now or more-than-likely never to get my lower body into "running mode." I plan to start out on a treadmill until the summer heat has passed. If you are interested in the plan mentioned (and it DOES WORK as I've witnessed), you can find more info here.
Anyway, for the TV buffs out there, I'd like to suggest a few "yoga balls" or stretching balls. I've found when I must (wink wink) sit in front of the TV, these tools are great for casually stretching and releasing tension with little to no effort. Hell, just sitting on one automatically strengthens the abs and lower back. Unfortunately, they are not easily found in the city and I was forced to go to a certain corporate chain (Donna, look the other way) to get an affordable and durable solution.
Knol, the balance balls can be found at Indian Cycle, on Pear Orchard. Not quite in Jackson, but not a chain store.
I was actually suprised to learn that the yoga center in Fondren did not sell accessories like this.