Posts Tagged ‘Obesity’

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Fighting Fifty

November 5, 2010

I am turning 50 in a few short weeks. That number, 50, seems so huge to me. I don’t feel 50 and I certainly don’t want to be 50. But the reality is that I can’t prevent this birthday from coming. I didn’t have any trouble turning 30 or even 40. But the prospect of being 50 has really thrown me for a loop.

For most of this year, my 50th year, I have been rebelling against crossing the threshold into my 50’s. About 7 months ago I came up with a plan to prove to myself that 50 isn’t old, that I am still young enough to accomplish physical feats of endurance.  I also decided to make additional changes to my diet. I might not be able to prevent growing older, but I can live in a way that allows me to live better and to be healthier.

I gave up all red meat 4 years ago, becoming a semi-vegetarian, and only eating limited amounts of fish and chicken. Earlier this year, as part of my anti-aging campaign, I decided to give up all animal products, including eggs and dairy. I also added more grains to my diet. The transition to a vegan diet wasn’t as hard as I had imagined. I enjoy cooking and found many great vegan recipes to experiment with. Now and again I do indulge in some dairy, particularly by adding non-fat milk with a splash of half-and-half to my coffee. But because I have hypothyroidism I can’t eat or drink large amounts of soy. I can honestly say I don’t miss meat.

Some may scoff at these dietary changes but the impact on my health has been quite remarkable. I have more energy, sleep better, and generally feel better. My skin and hair are softer. And I have not gotten a cold or the flu since changing my diet.

In addition to these dietary changes, I came up with a plan to accomplish something big athletically. Initially, I thought climbing a mountain would be quite an accomplishment as well as a physical challenge. I can’t afford to climb Mount Everest (and don’t have any serious climbing experience that would make this a realistic option) and couldn’t convince any of my friends to join me on a trek to base camp or on a guided climb to the summit of Mount Rainier.  So, I came up with a plan to ride my bicycle from Palm Springs, California to Tucson, Arizona. Yes, I did say a bicycle! And I knew just the person to join me on this adventure – my sister-in-law.

I had no trouble convincing my sister-in-law to ride 300 plus miles on a bicycle. After all, she has been an avid cyclist for at least a decade if not more. At 66, she is in great shape, rides 3 times a week and takes very good care of herself. I broached the subject with an email “Do you have any interest in a long bike trip, say a ride from Palm Springs to Tucson?” She responded enthusiastically to my invitation. “Definitely!” And so, I had a companion for my adventure. Serious training needed to be undertaken.

This past spring we talked about our training needs. Our goal; work up to riding about 200 miles a week. No easy task. If you ride between 12-15 miles per hour, that meant training 13-17 hours per week on the bike. And given that we would ride close to 90 miles on some days on our trip, we needed to build in several very long training rides.

Some of you might be thinking, “hey, no problem, it’s just riding a bike.” Oh, if it were only that simple.  Although riding a bike is a non-weight bearing activity, it requires a lot of leg strength and endurance. Not to mention the discomfort of your hindquarters from sitting on a bike saddle for long stretches of time. I slowly built my training distance and in a few months was regularly riding 30-40 miles per ride. Eventually, I added a long 50-mile ride to my weekly training. In the weeks immediately preceding our trek, I did a long, grueling 70-mile ride over hilly terrain. That was the most challenging and exhausting physical activity I had done up to that point in my life. I was drained from this ride, both physically and mentally. But I made it! I was wiped out the next day and my derriere was chaffed and sore. I began to doubt my ability to complete this trip. Would I make it? Could I really ride 80+ miles in one day and still have energy to ride the next day? I began to doubt myself. And to question the wisdom of embarking on such an adventure.

The week before the trip, my anxiety surged. I was nervous and anxious about stringing together back-to-back high mileage rides several days in a row. How was I going to do this? Would I make it?

To be continued. . .

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Reclaiming Myself

November 19, 2009

Today I am rededicating myself to health, both emotional and physical. Since January, I have struggled, among many things, with my motivation to exercise and eat right. Depression, grieving of significant losses and plain old burn out and exhaustion forced me to put my physical health on hold. For the last several months I simply haven’t had the physical or emotional energy to lace up my shoes and hit the road. For months, depression ate away at my very soul. I lost a part of who I was. Having a tendency to gravitate towards emotional eating when I am struggling emotionally, I have eaten too much junk food. I have forgotten my healthy habits. But today, I declare war on idleness, ice cream and other junk food. Today, I am reclaiming that part of myself that has been missing for many, many months.

Since April, my nearly daily exercise routine decreased dramatically, first to a couple of times a week down to weeks on end with no activity. I would go to bed each night vowing to go out first thing in the morning for a run. Morning would arrive and I just couldn’t mobilize myself to put on my running clothes, lace up my shoes and head out the door.  And then summer in the desert arrived with its crushing heat. Only a fool runs outdoors when it is 100+ degrees. And I hate treadmills. July, August and September pass with little physical activity on my part. The heat makes running out of the question. I go on the occasional bike ride but just can’t manage to string several days of exercise together.

During these hot, sweltering months, I let my diet go and eat a lot more comfort food. Yes, I am guilty of emotional eating. Yes, I love blueberry pancakes, ice cream and dark, rich chocolate. Like most of us, I tell myself, “Oh, a little ice cream never hurt anyone.” Or “I am not going to deprive myself of things I like.” And the best, “I will watch what I eat tomorrow.” And tomorrow becomes tomorrow which becomes yet another tomorrow, finally leading us to today. Several months have passed in the blink of an eye.

Last night I complained to my wife that I have put on a few pounds. Nothing disastrous, but enough for me to notice and feel the difference. She listens patiently as she always does then gently asks, “What are you going to do about it?” Such a simple question, but really a reminder that I am the ONLY one who can do anything to alter this new pattern and stave off the accumulation of additional pounds.  Before bed I once again, as I have so often in the past, vow to renew my exercise plan and change my diet. But this time these are not empty promises. And so this morning, after my breakfast of a protein shake, I put on my running clothes, dust off my running shoes and head out for a run. I am slow and the minutes painfully add up. 25 minutes later I am finished. Breathing hard, sweat soaked, but proud. I realize how great running is for clearing my head and stimulating my creativity. I have missed my old friend. For the last several years’ exercise has been my salvation and a gift I give to myself. Perhaps the greatest insight I had on my morning run was the voice inside me shouting, “she’s back!” Since at least January, I have felt like a piece of myself was missing. In the dark days of depression I lost hope, optimism and had no energy. But this morning, with my heart pounding and the sweat pouring down my face, I reclaimed that missing piece. I am indeed back!

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The L Word is a Lie

December 5, 2008

About 5 or 6 years ago, the lesbian community rejoiced at the creation of a Showtime original series “The L Word” whose story lines focused on several lesbian characters, their lives and relationships. Every Sunday lesbians across American sat together in living rooms, bars and community centers and watched with deep satisfaction and joy as the lesbian lifestyle was exposed to all of America.  L Word parties became the rage and were the highlight of many a woman’s weekend as well as the hot topic of conversation. Lesbians were finally main stream.

The problem, as I see it, is that the show presents a mythical, fictional and unrealistic view of lesbians and their lives. I mean, come on, have you ever met as many hot, sexy and gorgeous lesbians as the main or supporting characters on the show? Do you know any lesbians who live the kind of life the women on the L Word live? Maybe you will see these types in small numbers at the annual Dinah Shore event in Palm Springs or on occasion in Provincetown, Los Angeles or New York but in my everyday life, I can count the lesbian women I know who look, dress and act like the women on the L Word on one hand, and then using only one or two fingers.

I recently married my partner and we are now one of the 18,000 gay couples who got married in CA before a slim majority of ignorant and bigoted voters passed Prop 8 (it should actually be called Prop Hate) prohibiting gay marriage. For our honeymoon we went on an Olivia Cruise to the Caribbean. In case you don’t know, Olivia cruises are lesbian cruises. Prior to departure we were excited at the prospect of being on a ship with all women, in a community where we could be a couple, hold hands and gaze into each other’s eyes at dinner without fear of hateful looks or nasty comments. We could enjoy a real romantic and celebratory honeymoon as a couple and not have to pretend to be roommates or sisters. And, as an added bonus,  having seen footage of Olivia cruises on both the L Word and Work Out, I had a vision that the ship would be filled with beautiful lesbian women such as those featured on both of those shows. For one short week, my wife and I could live the L Word life! Boy was I in for a surprise.

As we embarked on the cruise I looked around at the women on board and thought to myself “The L Word is a LIE!” The majority, and I am talking 80 to 85% of the women on this cruise we not only fat, they were obese. They were not, as a whole, beautiful, hot, sexy or gorgeous. Most had short butchy haircuts. Most were older. Where were the normal looking women? Where were the women like me? I exercise, eat healthy, am fairly attractive, and dress somewhat fashionably. In short, I take care of myself. Before I stepped foot on the ship I thought I would see and meet a lot of women like my wife and myself. This was not to be.

Another thing I found disturbing is how masculine many of the women were.  I am a lesbian because I am attracted to women. I have never understood why a lesbian who purportedly wants to be with another woman would chose to be with a woman who looks like a man. What is up with that? The number of extremely butch and masculine women on this trip astounded me.

Now there is nothing wrong with a woman being athletic, wearing her hair short or having masculine qualities, (I have straight women friends like this) but I really cringe when I see women dressing in men’s clothes and acting like men. I just don’t get it.  On formal night, I was shocked by the number of lesbian women wearing men’s suits, and I mean real men’s suits complete with ties and wing tips. This is not to say that dresses should be required (I only own two and rarely wear them) but couldn’t these women dress in female clothes? Is it lack of self-esteem that drives them to men’s clothes or is it rampant obesity? I guess the obesity should have come as no surprise. After all, nearly two-thirds of Americans are obese or grossly overweight. Why should the lesbian community be immune to the epidemic?

Now don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed the cruise. Olivia is a great company and provides travel opportunities for women in safe, secure and comfortable environments. They have created settings where we can feel free to and simply be ourselves. The company does a great job and I recommend that more lesbians take advantage of the Olivia experience.  But don’t expect to see the type of lesbian community the L Word or Work Out projects. Beautiful, hot, sexy and gorgeous lesbians were in the minority on my cruise. But one thing you can count on, you will feel safe and free to be yourself in a loving and open community.

The point? The L Word IS a lie. Isn’t most everything we see on television or at the movies? If television simply held up a mirror to society, no one would watch. Who among us would watch a show about fat, unattractive lesbians? Every one of us, gay, straight or questioning wants to believe in something better and more beautiful, more perfect than ourselves or our everyday lives. Come the beginning of the final season of the L Word, you will find me and my wife in front of our television every Sunday night imagining ourselves living in the fantasy world created by Showtime.