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  • J.H. Fleming

Writing and Physical Health


I can't be the only writer who struggles with weight. I think it's part of the lifestyle. We're sedentary by nature, putting all our time in writing or reading. In my case, add video games and a sedentary day job. Considering that, it's no wonder I gained 76 pounds after graduating college.

For the first few years after I graduated, I told myself there was nothing to worry about. A few extra pounds are no big deal. When I hit 20 extra pounds, I figured I should probably do something about it. But instead I continued with the way I was living, choosing to wear blinders rather than address the problem.

Time passed and I kept gaining, until I cringed every time I saw myself in pictures. What had happened to me? Why wasn't I doing anything about it?

"My writing takes precedence," I told myself. "It's fine."

But it wasn't, and when I hit my peak weight last year, I finally decided to do something about it.

Getting started was tough. For the first several months all I did was log my food in My Fitness Pal. By doing that, I was able to see every day how much I was eating and how it was affecting my weight. I wasn't losing weight during that time, but I got in the habit of logging all my food, and that allowed me to see my eating patterns. Then finally, last summer, I started exercising.

I dreaded it. I had to rearrange my evening schedule, which meant less time for the things I really wanted to do. Plus there was the exercise itself. What could I choose that I would stick with?

At first I tried to get my writing done first and leave exercise for after. I also chose to do Zumba, which I knew from past experience was something I could enjoy. But I quickly discovered that by the time I got home from work, had dinner, and completed all my writing and editing, I was so mentally drained that the thought of exercising seemed like an insurmountable task. More often than not, I would skip it.

After several days of failing to exercise, I finally admitted it to myself: I needed to exercise soon after I got home. The sooner, the better, in fact. I've gone back and forth since then on whether or not I eat dinner first. The norm has become eat dinner, then exercise, but I'm not really opposed to switching them. It depends on how hungry I am. I've also never had the issue of getting sick from eating first, so I have that going for me.

The next step was getting a handle on my daily calorie intake. I was consistently going over, so I examined what I was eating and adjusted. I used to make coffee in the morning and take it to work with me. That habit was discarded. I also used to eat oatmeal every morning. Nothing wrong with oatmeal, but it was costing too many calories (I like to use honey and milk, otherwise I don't want it). Lunch had historically been a big calorie vacuum as well, so I overhauled it, too. I tried a couple different things to replace those meals, and finally decided on protein meal replacement drinks. By having those for breakfast and lunch, I was able to have a decent-sized dinner and still have my evening coffee while writing. Add two cups of tea and two Bai waters as snacks throughout the day, and I was good to go.

The weight started dropping fairly quickly. One of my Zumba videos was an hour long, though, and another was 45 minutes, which were both just long enough to be too long, especially since I had to shower after before I could start writing and editing. So I started stopping the videos at their halfway points, cutting my exercises down to 30 minutes max, which freed up more time for myself afterwards. I didn't hit my first snag until I started having pressure in my knees, presumably from doing Zumba every night. To fix that, I started alternating Zumba with yoga, which made the pressure go away completely.

I now have 12 different routines, which are more than enough to give a feeling of variety. I would get bored fairly quickly if I simply did the same routine night after night.

There are still some days I go over my calorie limit, particularly on weekends when I'm unable to exercise. (That should change soon, after I've moved!) But overall, my progress has tended downward, even if it's sometimes a little slower than I would like.

To date, I've lost 47 pounds, a little more than half of my goal. Depending on how many pounds I lose per week, I'm hoping to hit my goal weight sometime between April and May.

It hasn't been easy by any stretch of the imagination. In order to have any sort of treat, I have to plan my calories for the day ahead of time, taking into consideration which routine I'm doing that evening, if it's even an exercise day. Sometimes I have to decide it's simply not worth it. But I'm learning to be okay with that.

I would like to update my weight loss progression here every Monday, and I hope you'll stick around for the final result. By sharing this, I'm making myself more accountable to the eating decisions I make throughout the week.

Are you struggling with balancing writing with exercise with having a life? What has your experience been? I'd love to hear about it in the comments.

#writerslife #exercise

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Not everyone gets a happy ending