At times it’s tough to get back into the health mindset on a Monday, but after a road trip, a reality-check from my mother-in-law, and a stairwell, today I’m actually kind of inspired to get started.
This newfound enthusiasm, after a weekend of poor eating choices, isn’t coming from some magazine cover telling me I can “Melt off 10 lbs!” just from reading this issue. Or from my junk email inbox with a message screaming “Want to Rock that Bikini Body this Summer…here’s how!??!”. Umm, yeah, I just got that one a few minutes ago…and it’s not from looking at photos Jillian Michaels looking perfect, although I do think she’s awesome, I’m guessing the photo is airbrushed and I’ll never actually look like her no matter what I try…
Nope. These don’t do it for me, at all. These messages may cause short-term guilt and negativity to jump-start a little action, but they don’t keep me going long-term.
What is keeping me going this week? Some observations from a family trip to suburbia, in a town outside of Rochester, New York.
In contrast to where I live in Vermont, where we have two country stores, a library and little else, this town is all about big-box stores and chain restaurants. And we needed those stores because we had to purchase computer supplies for my 86-year-old mother in law. We spent the morning accomplishing our mission, but when we were ready to have lunch, hmmm, tough choices for those hoping to eat something relatively healthy. No quaint little cafe exists in this town, serving organic, local, grass-fed foods with right-size portions. The options: Fast Food? Ick. Hot Dogs? Apparently something super-popular in the Rochester area. No thanks. Applebees? I have a son with food allergies and I hear they aren’t great with that. Red Robin–oh, yeah, I heard they are a chain that gets the allergy thing. So that’s where we went.
Looking over the menu, it looked to me like the best non-salad choice was the fish sandwich, so I ordered that with sweet potato fries, thinking to myself, I don’t do this very often, It’s great to have a splurge meal every once in a while. Oh, and a margarita, I forgot I had one of those too! Yes, a splurge. I sat back, happy, relaxed, and took in the atmosphere, my eyes landing on the people at the tables around us.
A woman in her eighties eating a gigantic ice-cream sundae, probably bigger than her head, dining with what looked like her extended family. A couple, in their twenties, dressed all in black with matching dyed black hair, hamburgers oozing, soda-slurping. A table of middle-aged women with frizzy hair, laughing and talking and gesturing wildly, probably on their lunch break from work. And everyone eating way, way, way too much food. But having fun.
I wonder if these folks are “regulars” and eat like this all the time, or are like me, on a once-in-a-while splurge?
Sadly, most looked like they did eat there everyday.
After lunch, it was time to do something fun so we set out to find the Science Museum. In the car, my thoughts started to turn on me, like they usually do, from happy and relaxed to scorn. Why did you have to eat so many fries? Were they really that good, they really weren’t. Did you really need to eat every little drop of it? I put the negative thoughts on hold at the museum, where once inside, my husband and son ran off and started climbing four floors of open stairs to the top floor, while my mother-in-law and I tried unsuccessfully to catch them. As we were climbing, I looked down at her. She was a little slow, but I have to tell you, she was doing just fine with those stairs.
She didn’t complain. She didn’t ask me to find an elevator instead.
How many 86-year-olds do you know who can do that?
She and I decided to check out an exhibit on Native American villages, something most dinosaur-and-fossil-seeking kids had no interest in, so we had this whole quiet wing of museum to ourselves for a little while. I asked her whether or not she might come back to this museum with friends, since it’s so close to where she lives, and so beautiful. She would love to, she said, but basically none of her friends could walk around the way she does. The conversation drifted from the museum, to the fact that she is at this age where she is losing the people around her more and more. She became a widow about 8 years ago, but most recently this winter, she lost her best friend.
Later, back at her house, I started thinking about her lifestyle and pieced together some of the other conversations we had that weekend. My mother-in-law has a high-strung dog who needs to walk a few times a day. When I tried to help her bring sheets down to the laundry area, she said, oh no… she deliberately bought the house she is in now because it has stairs, so she could keep moving, and she will strip the beds and do the laundry herself. No problem. She drives everywhere, even in snow. After a few scares on black ice, I avoid driving in snow at all costs. When I mentioned that she just shrugged and said, “well, I need to do what I need to do, the store, lunch, class, so I drive”. She takes exercise classes a few times a week at the Y, that include weights and stretching and all sorts of movements. She, ironically, is a caregiver/companion to her daughter who has limited mobility from back surgeries, and to another younger friend each week.
I am thoroughly in awe of this woman. She makes me think a lot about my two grandmothers, both died a few years ago, but lived similarly active lives and were independent and happy and fun and young until the end. And to my dad, who I lost way too early, who was always on his bike rides and stretching and moving and still happily doing financial consulting and keeping his brain exercised, where others his age were slowing down.
This weekend was just a great reminder to me about why I want to always keep activity and health top of mind. Sure, it’s great to look good, “have Rock-hard Abs!” and “a bikini body by summer!!!”, like the women’s magazines like to remind us, but honestly, I think this message is all wrong. Inspiration to make changes, and to keep us focused on what is important doesn’t come from looking at perfect photos of models, we all know that isn’t attainable for most of us. Long-term inspiration comes from real people who live real lives. We see these people all around us, and make the decision about who we want to emulate, and the reverse, who we don’t.
I want to climb those stairs when I’m 86.
And I want to be confident to drive in snowstorms in Rochester.
And I want to have a yippy dog I still need to chase and bend down to pick up, and be able to do these things myself.
I hope I’m not the last healthy one left, as my mother-in-law seems to be, so will try to inspire my family and friends to keep their health top-of-mind as well.
Yes, we can sit back in the booth at Red Robin, and have a margarita and endless fries and whatever, and that’s ok once in a while. What isn’t ok, is getting mad at ourselves for living life a little when we need to, and then giving up on our health goals when we don’t think we have measured up… we need to be off as much as on, or at least I do, to stay committed for the long-haul. The chain restaurant staff won’t start singing “Here comes a Regular…” next time I walk in for lunch…
So it’s Monday, and I overindulged this weekend. But my mind is back where it needs to be, thanks to my mother-in-law, and I’m ready for the ebb and flow of the good and bad, and the careful balance it’s going to take to manage my healthy, active future.
How about you? Do you have role-models who keep you motivated? Would love to hear your stories…