A couple of weeks ago, Brian walked up to pay his rent at the management office for the business park where his shop is located. Dick, one of the park’s owners, greeted Brian.
“WOW, Brian – you’ve lost a lot of weight!,” Dick exclaimed.
Brian has indeed lost quite a bit. He’s down more than 50 pounds as of this moment. It’s taken a lot of discipline and work – definitely not an overnight thing. Dick hadn’t been around in a while (he’s more of an absentee owner), so he got the full effect all at once. As a currently portly man, he may have had a keen interest in Brian’s potential miracle fat cure.
“How did you do it?” he asked.
Without missing a beat Brian told him “I put down the fucking fork, Dick.”
Dick’s partner Rick burst out laughing, and Dick stood there for an awkward moment before admitting “I guess that works.”
Motivation. Dedication. And Lack Of.
Brian served in the Army for 10 years before giving up his career to care for his kids. Long story there, but two things I will tell you. 1) He didn’t want to leave the Army. 2) Since he did have to leave the Army, he was not going to do PT again. Ever.
Of course, even if you once did 12-mile ruck marches carrying an M16 and 70 pounds of gear, fitness is like anything else you have: Use it or lose it. By the time I met Brian some 10 years after his discharge from the Army, his haircut was the only physical remnant of his prior life.
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As for me, was a pretty big girl at one time in my life – almost hit 200 pounds in my late teens. Might have had something to do with my sudden freedom from a house where processed foods, fast food and sugar in most any form were forbidden. Screw you, dad – I’m buying Oreos! Double Stuff, even!
After I dumped the excess 35 – 40 pounds, I kept my weight in check (pretty much) by forcing myself to do whatever minimal level of workouts would keep the muffin top at bay, as well as by consuming only a moderate number of junk-food calories. Well, compared to the average American diet, anyway. Oh, yeah – I also had a Diet Coke addiction that was to my sugar habit what methadone is for heroin addicts.
Weight, more than fitness, was my focus. These mixed-up priorities caught up with me a few years ago and bit me in the ass. Severe neck, shoulder, arm and elbow pain interfered with exercise, leading to weight gain. Out of guilt I’d try to do something, anything, and only wind up aggravating the injuries.
Since I outed Brian about his weight and his vow to never do PT again, I should probably confess a couple of things so you can think ill of me if you want. In case telling you I once weighed nearly 200 pounds isn’t humiliating enough. 1) I HATE exercise for the sake of exercise, and think it’s the biggest waste of time modern society has ever devised. Seriously – all that energy expended and you go nowhere, build nothing, create nothing! WTH? 2) I’ve had a long, tortuous relationship with sugar (a.k.a., the most two-faced friend a girl could have). As a result of these two attitudes, I’ve carried around an excess 10-15 pounds of flab since about five minutes after Brian and I got married.
It’s Hard to Have Fun When Yo’ Ass Weighs A Ton
Unlike me, Brian didn’t wait until after the wedding to bulk up. When we first met he had a smallish belly pooch. I recall him making a dismissive comment about his doc wanting him to lose 10-20 pounds. However, his weight climbed steadily after that. I don’t know how much he weighed on our wedding day, but if you look at the photos you’ll have a hard time finding his chin.
A year or so ago, I decided to “help” Brian by calculating the possible contribution of beer to his increased girth (dude was not happy that I finally decided to use math, BTW). 170 calories x 2-3 beers per night = 1 pound per week. I later discovered I’d calculated it using a weight that was about 40 pounds less than what he actually weighed.
At some point after the unrequested beer math demonstration, it became as clear to Brian as it was to me that our health and fitness was becoming a limiting factor. Well, it already was limiting me. If we didn’t do something before hitting the road we’d have a far less adventurous life than what I hoped for.
The last damn thing I wanted was a day-to-day in which our most strenuous activity was walking to an RV park clubhouse for a potluck, or the best socializing I could hope for was sitting around with other broken-down folks commiserating over our aches and pains. Without even the benefit of alcohol. Because we’d all have diabetes 🙁
Why We Finally Got Serious About Our Health
Brian has walked 2 – 3 miles or more nearly every day for the last several months. I’ve been
tolerating using a dance/walk DVD several times a week for the last month, and working through a 12-level rehabilitative exercise program daily. We’ve cut carbs drastically (Brian especially) and I’ve been throwing all kinds of veggies into the Ninja Brian recently bought me.
Why do this now, after years of not caring? Well, being overweight and out of shape is never a good idea, but the possibilities that are just over the horizon were just the motivation we needed to do something about it. The longer we let things go, the harder it would be to gain better health. Yeah, the best time to get serious about health would have been 20 years ago. But the second best time is NOW.
Here are our biggest whys.
Exploring is more enjoyable when you’re in good shape
There are crazy rock formations and mountains and sand dunes that need climbing. Bike paths to cruise in the sunshine while feeling the wind in our hair. Giant jumping pillows! Beaches we can run around on with the dogs!!! All manner of adventure awaits. But if we’re out of breath, or my knees are creaky, or Brian has to carry 1.5 times his normal weight up a hill, it will be closer to agony than adventure.
Having fun on the jumping pillow.
Being fit means more job options
Even before we decided to go nomad, I was concerned about our health impacting what we’d be able to do to make a living. In New Hampshire (where we planned to move until deciding to try RV life, ICYMI), we probably would have had to look for work outside our current fields of expertise. The more we’re able to do, the more options would be open to us. In that regard, RV life won’t be any different.
If you’re wondering why two college-educated people in their 40s/50s would consider jobs requiring good physical health, you might want to read some of my previous posts about how our priorities have shifted, and how we’re looking for even more change once we’re actually living in the RV. That’s the broad answer.
More specifically, we’d like to be able to take on well-paying but physically demanding jobs if we need to. It’ll probably take a while to get our firearm appraisal business off the ground, and we don’t want to deplete our reserves or be broke while we’re building a customer base.
We’ve been plugged into several online communities of full-time RVers for months now, and have learned of opportunities that would help us earn money, conserve it or both. Crazy things like working the sugar beet harvest, or in an Amazon fulfillment center around the holidays, or walking gas lines checking for leaks. Hard work? Yeah. But if you’re only doing it for a few months and making crazy money? Pshhyyeah – sign us up!
A healthy diet helps prevent current and future health problems
I realize that sometimes poor health just happens. More often than not, though, it’s avoidable. I know my RSI stuff would have been avoidable if I’d realized what I was doing to myself.
More than a few friends’ Facebook feeds alternate between frustration over their weight/blood pressure/prescription drug costs and checkins at Waffle House, Golden Corral or In-N-Out Burger. It makes me sad. Do they not see a correlation? Or are they like Dick, admitting a healthier diet would work, but probably hoping for something easier?
In our house, that I’ve always been the more health conscious one doesn’t mean I’ve been lily white. When Brian didn’t care what he ate, I served way more carbs than ideal. True they were usually whole grain. But still – too many carbs, not enough protein. I baked treats all the time that he almost never indulged in. Oops – someone’s got to eat them 🙂
Now that Brian gives a damn about things I’ve said are important, I’m more motivated than ever to do those things more of the time. It’s a helluva lot easier now that the USDA has been called out for its bogus war on fat and salt. Also, since quitting sugar almost completely (usually less than 9 grams per meal – try it!) I find myself jonesing for carbs and sugar less often.
My mom, aunt and grandma all developed Type II diabetes. I’m not gonna go there.
Being healthy reduces healthcare spending
Not that insurance = actual healthcare, but we’re currently uninsured (thanks, government). That means we pay 100% of our health-related expenses out of pocket: doctor visits, prescriptions, giant bottles of ibuprofen, ergonomic keyboard, mice, computer stand, chair, muscle roller thingie, expensive hand exercise jobber, etc. Most of these expenses are related to my computer (over)use and, while not cheap, they’re nothing compared to what I hear friends complaining about paying despite having health insurance.
Our plan is to join a health sharing organization. These work kind of like the catastrophic insurance we couldn’t afford when Obamacare came into being. Honestly, catastrophic plans are the way all insurance ought to work. Personal responsibility with a safety net. But I digress…
When I called to get a quote from Liberty HealthShare, the price was reasonable (three hundred and something per month…can’t recall the exact number) although if you’re not at a healthy weight they’ll only take you on sort of a probationary basis. There’s a surcharge for this, too (which I think is fair). I wouldn’t have been charged more, but we’d have paid more for Brian.
Right now we’re spending zero dollars on insurance/health sharing, because Brian is working on getting to a healthy weight and we’re throwing money at our goal of being debt-free before we RV. I realize we’re kind of rolling the dice here. I know, I know – this is the same crap everyone gets angry at Millennials for doing. Sometimes you have to compromise.
I <3 writing
I don’t know what direction my writing will take, but I do know it’s something I’d like to give a bigger place to in my life. I’m more productive and it’s more enjoyable when I don’t have RSI pain & complications.
Up until perhaps two years ago, I overworked on the computer and overused devices to the point that I experienced pain even after putting them down. Yet mostly I was not doing the kind of writing I enjoyed, because it would have added more strain and pain. I was actually avoiding something I loved, instead sinking my energy into something I felt I should do. I felt conflicted and stressed out a lot.
Now, I try not to work more than a few hours a day. I know I tend to hyperfocus when I get in a groove, and get sidetracked when unmotivated (Facebook! YouTube! “Research”); either can contribute to too much keyboard/device time. Limiting my work hours to the period between my morning personal/household time and our evening meal bookends the day and forces me to start and stop at more or less reasonable times.
Still working on not feeling like a special little snowflake for being so persnickety about ergonomic crap, and not generating a lot of revenue, but I’m feeling like limiting where I invest my energy will pay off in the future in one way or another. Not necessarily cash. But, y’know, if mama ain’t happy…
You Belong Somewhere You Feel Free
I’d like to think the RV lifestyle is more conducive to health and fitness than life in suburbia. I have a feeling, though, that it will be what we make it. Too many RV park potlucks and happy hours, or too little time spent outdoors scrambling over rocks and walking among trees, and we’re right back on the path we just left.
To paraphrase the legendary Tom Petty, we belong somewhere we feel free. Free in body, mind and spirit. If I’m a slave to sugar or Brian to carbs, or if we slack off on daily exercise, there’s a good chance that, instead of feeling free, we’ll feel like prisoners in our own bodies.
It’s true that I can only age gracefully – not stop aging. Nor can I eliminate the ability of genetics or simple randomness to deliver an unexpected health crisis. But I can choose to put down the fork, skip the cookies, get off my duff and move. When my body complies instead of complains, I’ll feel free.
p.s. – Brian and I are both big Tom Petty fans and are totally stoked about seeing him in concert next month in Atlanta. If you appreciate stories about people breaking free from personal demons and challenging pasts, read Petty: The Biography by Warren Zanes. I *liked* Petty before I read it. After, I respected and admired him despite or maybe because of his flaws, and developed a deeper appreciation for his music.
p.p.s. – Our RV shopping continues. Cool things are happening, but we’re still short of anything requiring ink. Or a $250 fill-up. By the time you read this we might be very close. Positive vibes, k?