Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Life Lesson, as brought to you by my husband

Back in April 2010, my husband went in for a routine physical and was told by his doctor that his blood pressure was high and he needed to lose weight because he was at risk for a heart attack (among other things.)  The doc wanted to see him back in three months.  If my husband hadn’t improved, he’d have to start taking blood pressure medication.
For about two weeks following his appointment, my husband tried to exercise—but then life got in the way; we went on vacation, he got a head cold, he got busy at work, the kids wanted his attention, his church callings took up too much time.  I worried about his health, but not wanting to nag my man about his eating habits and lack of exercise, I didn’t say anything. (If I had, it would have been the pot calling the kettle black!)  Soon, three months were past, and it was time for his follow up appointment.
This time, my husband’s blood pressure was worse.  The doctor actually told him he was a “ticking time bomb” and “going to have a heart attack.”  He wrote out a prescription for BP medicine.  My husband was horrified and declared he would try again to lose weight, if the doctor would just give him another three months. The doctor, highly skeptical, called my husband out on the carpet.  “You’ve had three months to get this under control and you haven’t,” he said.  “What makes you think you’re going to do it now?”  My husband asked how long he’d have to be on the medicine if he started taking it.  The doctor said, “Probably for the rest of your life.”  My husband looked the doc in the eye and said, “I don’t want to have to rely on that medicine to stay alive.  I WILL get healthy the right way.  Give me three more months and let me prove it to you.”
The doctor was still skeptical, but turned my husband loose, without the prescription.
Long story short, my husband has spent the last nine months proving he could get himself healthy.  He’s lost 60 pounds and is now within ten pounds of his target weight.  His blood pressure is now normal, his risk for a heart attack and stroke down to practically zero.  This man is a lean machine.
60 pound drop
Over the last few months, people have noticed him getting smaller and leaner. He’s been approached by men and women who tell him he looks like his weight has just “melted off.”  He’s been told, in tones of awe and envy, that he looks like he’s “wasting away.”  Some of our elderly friends have even expressed concern that he might be ill, because he’s so thin.  Some folks have insisted that he STOP losing weight because “You’re small enough now.”  He’s been asked what magic pill he’s taking, what diet he’s on, how he’s “magically” managed to lose so much weight.  People want to know:  “What’s his secret?”
No one believes him when he tells them. They actually laugh at him.  But, I know his secret, too.  It IS unbelievable.  Want me to tell you?  Are you ready?  Okay, here it is.  My husband’s secret for weight loss success is------DAMN. HARD. WORK.
He started by joining our local “corner” gym—it’s a small place, open 24/7, membership fee: 20 bucks a month.  Next, he hired a personal trainer for six sessions to help him come up with a game plan and some goals, and to keep him on track long enough to get into the habit of working out on his own.  The trainer weighed and measured my husband, wrote out an exercise plan for him, and introduced him to a health and fitness website: to help him track his progress.  Then the real work began.
My husband has, for nine months, consistently spent an hour to an hour and a half at the gym, or out cycling, five OR six days a week. He is still as busy as ever with work, family, and church responsibilities, but now he MAKES TIME for fitness.  More often than not, he gets up at 5 AM to go work out. Occasionally, he’ll skip the gym, and take in an evening kickboxing class, or play as a substitute in an indoor soccer league. The big realization here: You make time for the things that are truly important to you.
He has learned to count calories and for the first three months of his serious endeavor to get healthy, measured EVERY morsel of food that went into his mouth.  He was already eating fairly healthy foods, just MORE than was strictly necessary—so, he had to learn portion control.  And, admittedly, he did change some of his food choices.  He now eats high fiber cereal, and tosses in a bit of protein powder in with a fruit smoothie.  He eats a lot more salads and veggies.  At restaurants, he generally chooses lower calorie entrees.  But, he doesn’t shy away from the occasional donut or slice or two of pizza.
All this has been very hard.  He got tired.  He got sore.  He was often hungry, initially. He’d get sick and want to quit.  Three or four times, he’s had to take as much as two weeks off, to recover from injuries, or illness, or other life events.  But he keeps getting back up, and keeps going to the gym.  And he keeps watching what he eats and tracking his progress on the website.
To the untrained eye, my husband’s weight appears to have “melted off.”  But if it’s melted off, it’s melted off with gallons of sweat from hours and hours and HOURS of damn hard work, physically and mentally.  This brings me to the “life lesson” mentioned in the title of this post.
I hear a lot of parents telling their kids “You can be anything you want to be.  You can be successful at anything you put your mind to.”  I believe this.  But I also believe that when we say these kinds of things, we have a tendency to leave out the critical part---“if you’re willing to work your arse off to get it.” Consequently, our encouragement to our kids sounds vague and abstract, and the kids develop the belief that if they wish or dream something hard enough, it will come to pass. 
In my experience, hoping and wishing and even dedicated thought don’t usually work by themselves.  But—work will win when wishing won’t.  Whether you’re trying to lose weight or you want to learn to speak Russian or play the violin—it’s the WORK that gets you there.  And the harder you work, the better you’ll do.  We tend to want to look at people who have accomplished much and think they’re just lucky or unusually talented.  Luck and innate ability may lend themselves to success, but real, lasting success in any endeavor requires a whole lot of old fashioned, uncomfortable, gritty WORK.  Take it from one who knows. 
I’m proud of you, my man!
New Look

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Burnout: Part Deux

I was hoping to be able to post all the awesome stuff I gathered from the Mother’s Meeting that I had anticipated in my last post.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t much in the way of awesome advice about what to do about feeling burnt out.  Most of the moms who attended this time are mothers to older kids and teenagers---the big topic of the night ended up being about how to motivate their older kids to take their education into their own hands—so there’d be less nagging on mom’s part.
I suppose I should have paid better attention, so when my kids are pre-teens and teens, I’ll have some ideas, but I was just sort of disappointed that we weren’t going to talk about dealing with the homeschool blahs. 
At the end of the meeting, however, I threw my concerns out and asked for advice.  One mom of ten told me that my feelings of burn out and disinterest will pass—probably well after my baby is born, and that if my other kids didn’t get any formal academics for six months to a year, they’d still turn out okay.  It sounds kind of flippant to write it here, but I was actually comforted by that statement.  This mom of ten is a woman I consider my homeschooling and parenting mentor.  She’s given me a lot of practical advice since before I started homeschooling, so I trust her.  She’s also got a very wry sense of humor and isn’t one of those Pollyanna types that tries to gloss over the hard stuff.  She’s upbeat, don’t get me wrong, but she’s very REAL about her triumphs and failures.
So, I’ve been giving it some thought.  Six months with no school?  A year?  For real? We haven’t done any formal academics for about six weeks.  I have a baby coming sometime (God willing) in the next week, and I can’t imagine I’m going to feel up to hitting the books really hard for at least a few weeks after that.  I don’t want to whine or anything, but I’m feeling pretty miserable physically.  Standing hurts, walking hurts, bending over is nigh unto impossible—I’m exhausted after taking a shower and getting dressed.  So, I’ve been doing a lot of just sitting around.  I’m too tired to read, I just fall asleep—so yes—I have resorted to letting the kids entertain themselves with the TV and with the Wii.
But, I have discovered that the kids can only tolerate so much of that before they are restless and discontent.  They are brunt out on burnout.
  For the last few days, They’ve been asking me what we’re going to do today.  Something?  Anything? So I’ve given them chores.  I’ve let them cook (yikes!)  I’ve let them get out whatever messy craft project they want.  And, as I’ve watched them discover the satisfaction and order of a cleaned room, the joys of a successful cooking experience, or the lesson in perseverance when the project doesn’t turn out they they were hoping initially, I’ve begun to feel a glimmer of motivation and interest.
A spark of Phoenix fire.  But that’s the next post.