By the end of 2016, I was running 10 miles at my longest stretch. Then I injured my hamstring. Then 2017 came. I was on sabbatical, which sounds like “academic vacation” but isn’t. My exercise schedule was disrupted. My teaching schedule in the fall of 2017 was a mess that disturbed any semblance of regularity. I got sick in the spring with a really bad cold, then sick in the fall with hand, foot, and mouth disease, then a cold, then the flu. I injured my right foot, and even walking became a problem. By 2018, I had gained 12 pounds from my low of 188lbs. 2017 was not a good year. But, then, you probably all knew that 2017 was not a good year.
2018 needs to be better. That began yesterday, our first day back home after our winter road trip to Wisconsin. We did lots of walking and I had a nice run. It also began with a re-commitment to tracking and counting calories. The two things that, in combination, have allowed me to control my weight and thus reduce risks to my cardiovascular system and knees (among other things) have been regular exercise and calorie control. As I have said before in this blog, I do not diet. I eat what I like. I balance my foods with a good mix of vegetables, fruit, dairy product, meat, and fish. But I also have dessert, and I have alcohol. Diet, but not dieting, is important for me. What matters most is that calories out are greater than calories in and that the food I eat don’t present other problems to my biology (e.g. excessive sodium or sugar).
What ruined all of that calorie tracking in 2017 was LoseIt.com, the service Jodi and I had been using to track calories. We used it to share recipes and meals, which made it easy to work together to lose weight as partners. The service synced with Fitbit, our primary means of tracking activity, and our Withings scale, our primary means of reliably tracking weight as a measure of progress. Then LoseIt started charging money just to sync with other services, and we dropped it. We switched to MyFitnessPal, but the interface took some learning and we had to reinvent all our stored recipes. We got lazy and sloppy. There was too much other work to do. We fell off the calorie-tracking wagon.
That changed yesterday. We linked up our accounts. Jodi learned how to effectively enter recipes, which is actually a lot easier in MyFitnessPal than it EVER was in LoseIt. Best of all, and the reason we switched in the first place: they don’t charge money to sync with services. So, for now, we’ve stabilized. This work pause in the winter was essential to rebooting our lives. I don’t know what we would have done without it.
Given the history of heart- and stroke- related problems in our families, it’s extremely important to Jodi and me that we maintain our health. I like being able to walk up lots of stairs without getting winded, and I like thinking on long runs undisturbed by the phone, or, email, or students and colleagues. I need that as much as I need water or food. I like the competition between eating and being hungry and restricting calories to achieve a goal. Hunger is good at this stage. It means my body has recognized that a new sheriff is in charge, and it’s not happy. It will adapt.
So here’s to 2018. Here’s to running, stretching more and better after running to reduce the risk of injury, and spacing out long runs to allow my body to recover. Here’s to counting calories, and being a little hungrier than I had been in 2017. A little hunger is worth knowing that I am reducing my risk for heart attack or stroke. When I am active, a lot of things that are problems in a sedentary life – cholesterol ratios and blood pressure, for instance – are not problems at all. I like feeling well. I like the focus exercise provides to me, which is harder to find as I age.
Here’s to living life correctly again.