Would that I were wise enough to wander though the maze of macronutrients, carb cycling, and cutting phases, this post would not even be necessary. I do, however, need to remember what I have in my arsenal of nutri-knowledge, before tumbling into the deep end and never returning...
In 2007, my mom was down for a visit. We ended up in the ER one morning because she was in severe pain that refused to be soothed, topped of with bleeding from places one should never --I repeat never-- be bleeding from. 10 hours of sitting with a parent in a hospital room with little communication to the outside world can do a lot to a person. My mom, lover of all foods fried, fatty, and fast, has never been a bastion of health. I sat watching her doze, wondering what it would be like for my own children to sit with me, having no idea what was happening, no idea what was to come. Ten hours of wondering and worrying, as I am prone to do, and the result ended up being rather simple. One, she was diagnosed with diverticulitis and given a fairly strict diet to keep future episodes from occurring. Two, I decided that I never wanted my own children to fret over me all because I happened to also have a ridiculous obsession with all things fried, fatty, and fast.
At the time, I topped the scales at nearly 220, enjoyed a nightly pint of Ben & Jerry's Phish Food, and hid the evidence of my daily McDonald's trips in ways that included stopping at gas stations along the way home to toss the remains of my salty, fat-laden day. Fairly embarrassing to admit, hugely devastating to live.
Immediately following the ER visit and my mother's return to Illinois, I literally ransacked my home -- all the temptations -- cookies, chips, ice cream --oh the lovely ice cream-- went in the trash. These were replaced, after hours of googling and researching and book reading, with real food. A concept I had never truly considered. So gone were the days of processed meals and in came a life lived for quite a while from my Heart Healthy Meals in Minutes cookbooks. My children wrinkled their little noses at the vegetables, lean meats, and startling lack of carbs in our new meals. My family grimaced when I measured and counted and scrutinized every bite that went in my mouth.
I was on a mission. I was not going to be 50 and unable to play with my grandchildren or enjoy the latter half of my life, resigned to sit on a sofa with a Diet Coke and a remote control.
So I was at the gym, doing the only thing I knew to do at the time. I ran. First, I ran for 30 seconds. Then a minute. Two. Five. Ten. A silent mantra played in my head the entire time, "I am victorious. A winner. A princess, royalty. Undefeated, unstoppable, I am a warrior." And on and on it went, my music rattling through my brain as I forced myself to keep going, keep going, until there was just nothing left for me to give.
And I continued my nutrition research, eventually giving up the sugar free pudding and South Beach cookies that I had substituted for the delicious carbs I loved so much, and leaning to add in some protein powder here, some extra veggies there.
Six months later, I had dropped 60 pounds. I weighed less than I had in high school, felt better than I could ever remember, and had more confidence that I knew what to do with.
And still, I continued to dabble with nutrition, trying to find the truly healthy foods. Surely the holy grail of all that is good for you was out there somewhere.
Happy with my weight loss, but not exactly thrilled with the sagging flesh left in its wake, I sought out a personal trainer and was introduced to my new love -- weight training. I threw out cardio, tired of running, running, always with the running, and spent my time grunting and groaning and sweating until I was deliriously dizzy and muscles were forming where I had never seen them before and I for the first time ever thought
I am an athlete.
It was a truly miraculous event. I loved how strong I was, loved how far I could push myself, loved watching my form in the mirror as lifted more and heaver each month. It was intoxicating.
Time can be a tragic thing, and upon reaching the height of my fitness regime, I also hit the low of my previous marriage. It was as if life was being sucked away from me, and I spun out of control for about 6 months. No care for nutrition, no desire for workouts, just a 24/7 path of self-destruction that I get sick when I spend to much thinking about now.
Fast forward a year and a half, and I'm finally in a place where everything is emotionally back in place and I'm ready to take care of my physical self again. So I'm back in the gym, back on the right path nutritionally, but still irritated as hell whenever I read up on the best macronutrients and the proper calorie intake and everything in between.
I get that we're all different, and there is no perfect number that magically works for everyone. But can I tell you something? I really wish there was! I like rules, I like systems, I like lists. I like everything to fit into a neat little container that is easily sorted. Nutrition is not The Container Store. It's not neat and tidy, not easily navigated. It's hunt and peck, baby, try a little of this, work on a little of that, throw in a pinch of luck, and you find the perfect balance for a rock hard body.
But for a worrier like me? I'm constantly wondering if my calories are too low, or God forbid, too high. Did I eat enough protein for maximum muscle building? Am I eating carbs too late in the day? Would I be better off cycling carbs? Is my metabolism screwed for life due to my insane inability to stick with it, dammit?
You see the problem.
Whenever I get like this, I have to put myself back in that hospital room with my mom, remembering the whole point of it all is health, Kelly, and nothing more. Yes, I want rock hard abs, and yes, I have competition dreams, but in the end, if all I ever do is add years to my life and the ability to enjoy my children and my children's children, shouldn't that be enough?
Yes. And sometimes... sometimes, sometimes, I can remember that, and breathe.