Thursday, March 27, 2014

It's a Numbers Game--But Who's Counting?

It’s a numbers game,” my friend, Joe, explained.

Several of us were cleaning up after the art show a couple Saturdays ago and conversation turned to fitness, which is a generally touchy subject for me. I work out, I eat good food…and none of that matters since the Great Road Trip of 2007. One of the last things I did before our van headed westward was hop on the scale.  I was down 3 pounds from my already-trim size 4 weight.  Over the month-long tour, I put on about 10 pounds—a net gain of seven pounds from my norm.  No big deal, right? Trouble was, not a single pound of that vacation weight budged and, worse, it became a flabby but stubborn foundation for a trend that soared ever upward.

Nearly seven years have passed, and I have tried everything to get my body back to my ideal—the magic number that had consistently defined my size for years prior to the trip. I ran. I went to the gym. I tried, I failed, I tried harder. I made a bit of temporary progress one spring when I worked out three times a day in order to look stellar in the Bahamas. It wasn’t sustainable, and, I got tendonitis. Two falls ago, I upped the ante on time, duration, and intensity during midmorning sessions at the campus gum.  “I’m going to have a whole new body by Thanksgiving,” I told myself.  Instead, I gained a pound and lost more hope.

Since harder didn’t seem to work, I tried different Lured in by an introductory offer on Groupon, I made one of the worst financial decisions of my life and blew $1800 on laser lypo. According to the clinic, I allegedly lost something like 27 inches from my torso and thighs but not a single person noticed—no wonder, as I didn’t even go down a pants size.

The “numbers game” Joe referenced was counting calories, which, I had to admit, was probably the one thing I had never tried.  I’m adverse to numbers, and keeping up with the minutia of every morsel I put in my mouth seemed tedious, and, frankly, impossible.  Plus, I my knowledge of what a calorie really is, and how it related to my size was really rather shaky.  I knew calories were out there, vaguely, in the same sort of way I know gravity, or RAM and ROM are things, but I don’t give them much thought, you know?

Evidently, calories are kind of a big deal.  And now, thanks to technology (likely RAM and ROM are involved) there are apps that do all the work for you.  Joe showed me his favorite one, and I had to admit I was impressed. It scans barcodes on packaging, and has a database of calorie counts for, well, everything else. 

I think, like so much in life, messages resonate with us when we are truly ready and equipped to process them.  I’ve always known, of course, that eating too much makes you fat, but what’s too much?  I certainly didn’t eat too much, did I?

Joe didn’t realize it, but his word choice-- a numbers game--was what actually made things click for me.  See, a week or so before, I’d watched a TED talk by Jane McGonigal called “The Game That Can Give You 10 Extra Years of Life.”  Her story is below, and well worth the 19 and a half minutes, but let me summarize in case you're on a time budget. Jane is a gamer—games are her passion, they're what makes her tick.  And, as it happened, a game, of sorts, saved her life.  Jane became ill, and depression nearly consumed her, until she made a game of her recovery. She assembled a “team” (her husband and sister) and awarded herself “points” for small victories.  As she took control of her fate, she recovered.

Because Jane’s story was fresh in my mind, I realized that with Joe’s app, I could make a game out of getting my body back. I began to think.

Then came Fat Tuesday.  I decided to step on the scale and I saw the highest number I’d ever seen.  Encouraged by the added specter of the approaching Lenten season, I knew what I had to do.  I grabbed my phone and downloaded the app.  Game on!

Yesterday was three weeks into my game, and I’m ready to start sharing some stories from the playing field. I’m learning balance and moderation and developing a new relationship with food. But the best part? I’m winning! 
Now that I am confident I have turned a corner and I am on a successful path, I am ready to share some things I’ve learned.  I’ll be starting a new series of posts next Wednesday about what’s happened so far. I hope you’ll join me!

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