Walk, but do not run

Maryland Independent - - Classified - Twit­ter: @right­meg

“A jour­ney of a thou­sand miles be­gins with a sin­gle step,” says the proverb. I guess I’m tak­ing that lit­er­ally. Over the years we’ve been to­gether, friends, I’ve writ­ten about health and weight loss many times — and am still a work in progress. These days, I’m a steps-counter: a habit that pairs well with my pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with num­bers and mea­sur­ing.

When I lost weight in 2013, it was mostly due to my dili­gent count­ing of calories and not ex­ceed­ing a daily limit. As­sign­ing a value to food and keep­ing a run­ning tally was sim­ple. Back then, any­way. My ef­forts to jump­start my weight loss post-baby have been . . . chal­leng­ing.

Shed­ding al­most 40 pounds in 12 months took a mil­i­tant de­vo­tion to the cause. I had to ac­tively choose — day by day, of­ten hour by hour — to reach only for healthy items, watch my por­tions and stay away from “trig­ger foods” like sweets. Sounds sim­ple, right? I re­ally don’t want to use my son as a cop-out, but be­com­ing a par­ent does of­ten mean we put our­selves sec­ond. That’s not an ex­cuse to overindulge, but I just don’t make time to plan and prep healthy meals and snacks like I once did.

In the year since Oliver was born, I have not re­sisted temp­ta­tion. At all. And though the oc­ca­sional treat is fine, I lack the self-con­trol to have “just a taste” — just a few po­tato chips, just a sliver of cake. When I was get­ting three hours of sleep each night (thank­fully in the past), it seemed food and cof­fee were all I had to look for­ward to.

I wish I were jok­ing. But when you’re that drained . . . I guess I felt I’d earned it.

For me, lead­ing a healthy life­style re­quires chang­ing the way I think about food. Poor choices al­ways stem from my brain’s twisted logic that a bad day calls for pie (you’ll feel bet­ter!) — and so does a good one (cel­e­brate!).

I’m get­ting bet­ter about it, but that will al­ways be my strug­gle. Food has a de­li­cious power to numb and pla­cate, to up­lift and calm. Un­for­tu­nately, it’s rarely about hunger. Not steer­ing my cart through the bak­ery sec­tion takes willpower I don’t al­ways have, but I’m tr ying.

Where I don’t al­ways suc­ceed with eat­ing, I’m work­ing on ac­tiv­ity. And that’s where the step-count­ing comes in. I know I need to move — some­thing I didn’t do even at my thinnest. Though I was at a healthy weight, I don’t know that I was healthy.

My life does not re­volve around be­ing “thin.” I want to be fit and strong — ca­pa­ble of keep­ing up with my soon-to-be-ac­tu­ally-tod­dling tod­dler. I don’t want to be winded go­ing up a flight of stairs, or tired by the slight­est in­cline on a walk. I want to be quick. Light. Free. And so I’ve chan­neled my ob­ses­sion with num­bers into move­ment, not calo­rie-count­ing. A sim­ple pe­dome­ter clips to my pants pocket each morn­ing, track­ing only one thing: how many steps I’ve taken that day.

It’s noth­ing fancy, but it keeps me goal-ori­ented: a way to chal­lenge my­self to do just a lit­tle bit more. On nice af­ter­noons, you might even catch me cir­cling the of­fice building or park­ing lot — any­thing to beat yes­ter­day’s to­tal.

The first few times I wore the pe­dome­ter on an av­er­age week­day, I took about 2,000 steps: roughly equiv­a­lent to a mile. Walk­ing 10,000 steps is a pop­u­lar daily goal, but I knew I couldn’t push my­self too hard too fast.

I hate to ex­er­cise. I don’t like sweat­ing or run­ning and have no tal­ent for sports. While I was ini­tially en­thu­si­as­tic about dance and yoga classes, those even­tu­ally left me cold, too. (Or hot, ac­tu­ally. See: hates sweat­ing.)

But walk­ing? Walk­ing I can do. It’s some­thing I have to do, which is even bet­ter: an easy way to chal­lenge my­self. I take the stairs in­stead of the el­e­va­tor and park far from store en­trances. It’s also a task I can com­plete with­out ex­cuses. I mean, un­like the gym, you won’t hear me say, “Ran out of time — think I’m go­ing to skip walk­ing to­day.”

Just by push­ing my­self a bit while run­ning er­rands with Spencer and Oliver, Satur­day was my best day ever: more than 17,000 steps.

I try to walk at least 5,000 steps daily — so 17,000 is quite a jump. Not sus­tain­able day-to-day, but still an awe­some achieve­ment for me.

We must be­gin where we are, right?

See you at the top of the stairs.

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