My oncologist told me, directly: you must exercise. Every one of us should. "Daily exercise is the other pill you have to take. Studies have shown it has a much bigger effect on diminishing the risk of cancer than any diet. Do it." My other doctor told me that studies have shown that people with higher body mass index who exercise are in much better shape, and at lower risk of developing cancer and heart disease, than those with lower BMIs who don't move. I'm already in good health — my blood pressure is consistently ideal — but I could be healthier.
So I'm moving. I'm doing the Couch Potato to 5k program, walking and running in this gradual process, three times a week. To my utter surprise, I love it. I love leaving the house with the headphones on, walking down our street to see Mt. Rainier, being washed with the smell of lilacs by that one bush, then entering the forest trail to move my body. Our lives are busy. I work from home. I'm the mother of a toddler without any childcare. I don't have much time to myself. Feeling my feet on the dirt is one of the best parts of my day. Breaking a sweat and feeling the muscles in my legs grow strong makes me much happier than that second piece of cake ever could.
I'm out in the garden every afternoon with Lu. That doesn't feel like exercise, but I'm moving my shoulders and bending my back and growing more limber by the day. There's a funny stubborn place when I'm not exercising, a place that makes it seem so impossibly hard to do. And then, when I start, that stubborn place softens, then disappears. I start to love it. And I wonder how I ever went without it.
We're growing some food in our garden. Those are the first pea shoots and fava bean seedlings I thinned yesterday. We've already planted lettuce and arugula, spinach, bush beans, carrots, red cabbage, chard, lacinato kale, tomatoes, summer squash, plus lots of herbs. We have plans for much more in May. Every morning, I go out to the garden to see what has risen. It's all green and growing. We'll be eating our share of vegetables, plus the raspberries from the 20 thriving canes along the fence. It will easier to eat healthier with this.
I've been very inspired by my friend Megan's piece about losing 25 pounds in one year, which she wrote on her blog Not Martha. She articulated how I feel about diets better than I could:
"The bits involving food slowly sorted out into simply eating in moderation. Previously I had tried low carb diets and counting calories or keeping track of what I'd eaten in a day. And you know what? All that being aware of food all day drove me crazy. The result was that I grew resentful and obsessive and felt hungry all the time. And then I would eat a whole bag of Doritos. So instead I decided to try to just not think about all that hard. I ate more carefully, more kale less Annie's Mac and Cheese, and smaller meals with more snacks. I started eating breakfast, something I'm not inclined towards, to keep my metabolism going. Slowly I learned how long it takes for me to get rid of sugar cravings (two weeks), and that bagged baby carrots make me ill, and that I really like farro and kale, and that a little bit of olive oil used to cook a meal makes it far more satisfying than when using one of those olive oil mister things. I cut down on sugar and white flour and beer and eventually started avoiding those things knowing that they would only make me hungry later. Apples and almonds and light Baybell cheeses are surprisingly satisfying snacks, a mug of green tea in the afternoon helps a lot. I ate more carefully during the week and less on the weekends."
When I remember to put my fork down on the plate between bites, I feel a difference.
I'm still going to live in food. This is my passion, my joy, my shared work with Danny. I'm just trying to find a new relationship with food in this, a different way of being with it. I'm very much interested in reading Melissa Clark's book, The Skinny: How to Fit into Your Little Black Dress Forever. I stayed away from it because of the title. (I will never be a size 2. I laughed out loud when a doctor told me a few years ago that I actually do have big bones.) But now that I look at it more closely, I see that she has written a guide for living a life of eating well and often while still being mindful.
It's being mindful that matters.
I commented on her blog for the first time today. I told her that I was glad she felt the need to write what she did, because I needed to read it today. And I thanked her.