Fitness Friday: Setting Proper Goals in an Age-Defying Culture

I thought I was immune. For 25 years, I exercised 4 to 6 days a week, ate a well-balanced diet and enjoyed a healthy relationship with food. I was the weird girl who actually liked her body, loved vegetables and looked forward to workouts. I was certain the inevitable “Slowing Metabolism” that comes with age would bypass me. After all, I did everything right. Right?

Wrong.

The year I turned 40, I gained 23 pounds. It came on quickly, at a rate of about 2 pounds a week. I changed nothing to trigger the weight gain, other than starting on a “weight-neutral” anti-depressant a year earlier. I was still exercising, still eating well.

It was scary. Every time I stepped on the scale, the number was higher. I couldn’t fit into any of my clothes. I hardly recognized myself in the mirror. After I took approximately 8 home pregnancy tests (all negative), triple checked my scale for battery failure or technical malfunction (all in fine working order) and checked every clothing label to see if someone accidently switched my clothes with those of my 10-year-old daughter (nope), I self-diagnosed a 20-pound butt/thigh tumor.

I made an appointment with my family doctor, my GYN, a homeopathic physician and a dietician. The overwhelming consensus and final diagnosis was that I was….

*drumroll*

perfectly healthy.

I wasn’t sure what to do with that. I mean, I didn’t want to be sick, but I desperately needed an explanation for the weight gain. Mostly, I got a shoulder shrug and a sympathetic, “Well, you ARE 40 now. This sometimes happens…the metabolism slows…

It took about a year of very hard, focused work to lose 15 of those 23 pounds. I never did get to my pre-40/pre-Lexapro weight, and I’ve been struggling to get there ever since. I’ve done all I know to do. Everything from up switching up my diet (vegan, vegetarian, paleo, calorie restriction, intermittent fasting and gluten free) to continued back-to-back high-intensity workout programs, (1 year with a personal trainer, followed by P90X, P90X2, P90X3, Insanity, and Jillian Michaels Body Revolution.) On top of all of that, I walk or jog a few days a week. Yet, depending on the season, I still remain anywhere from 6 to 15 pounds over my Pre-40/Pre-Lexapro weight.

I used to think if a woman struggled with her weight, it was because she wasn’t trying hard enough. After six years of trying hard, I don’t think that anymore.

Redefining My Goals

In January, I led a 90-Day Challenge group on Facebook. There were about 15 women, most of us 35 or older each with different goals. Over those three months, I observed the women fall into one of two camps: those who struggled with maintaining consistency (would skip workouts, binge on a plate of cookies) and those who struggled with progress (would consistently eat well and exercise, but failed to see the scale budge.)

I shared that with my husband, who said, “Where are the ones who are consistent AND reaching their goals?

Good question. Most of them are in their 20′s or early 30′s, I suppose.

That got me thinking that perhaps we were setting the wrong goals.

In a culture that idolizes youth, it’s tough to grow old. Pick up any woman’s magazine and there is a cover article encouraging us to “defy” age. Every other advertisement promotes a product promising to “erase lines,” “smooth wrinkles,” and “reverse damage.” We celebrate women with firm skin and toned thighs, even if it comes by way of surgical or digital alteration. The juiciest celebrity scandal is often a favorite actress caught in a bikini, revealing her cellulite.

This is ridiculous. And insulting.

Age defying

As a 46-year-old woman, it’s wearisome to constantly counterbalance this garbage with reality—the reality that we are, in fact, aging. And with that age comes some wrinkles, sunspots and cellulite.

Women over 40 must come to terms with the fact that we are not our 25-year-old-pre-baby selves. Shoot, we’re not even our 35-year-old-post-baby selves! This is not an insult. Age really DOES slow the metabolism. Our thighs really DO get bumpy. Our bellies really DO get softer. Even if we’ve been doing everything right for decades. Even if we are still doing everything right.

So, Do We Just Give Up?

I have a “perfect weight” in my head. A number I’m constantly measuring myself against. Wanna know the last time I was that “perfect weight?”

It was after I buried my son.

Oh, and one other time a few years later: after coming off a 40-day fruit and vegetable fast.

So, let’s review: The only times in the last two decades I was my “perfect weight” were when I was 29 years old, grieving the loss of my first born child, too devastated to eat—-essentially starving myself. And also, when I had gone almost 6 weeks eliminating meat, dairy, grains, beans, nuts, sugar and skipping meals—-essentially starving myself.

The problem with most weight-loss goals is that we are often using a bad measuring stick. Measuring yourself against a 20-something-pre-baby version of you is a BAD measuring stick. Measuring yourself against a post-tragedy or post-fasting version of you is a BAD measuring stick.

I’m so done with that.

Maybe we should go ahead and set a weight loss goal, but adjust it to fit our current season of life. Maybe we do need to lose 20 pounds or more for our heart or to treat diabetes, but maybe it’s going to take a lot longer than the recommended 1-2 pounds per week.

Or maybe we should just treat our bodies kindly and let the scale fall where it may.

Like in the trash bin, perhaps?

Maybe instead of berating our bodies over ten pounds or arm flab or muffin tops we could set some health goals that look more like this:

1. Completing a workout program.
2. Training for a race or event.
3. Gaining strength, endurance or speed.
4. Managing a medical condition without meds or with a reduced dosage.
5. Eliminating or greatly reducing processed foods and sugar.
6. Trying something new. (OMG, remind me to tell you about trying CrossFit last week)
7. Drinking water.
8. Giving up alcohol.
9. Getting enough rest.
10. Successfully managing stress.
11. Trying new recipes with local, seasonal food.
12. Feeling good.
13. Setting a good, well-balanced example for our children.
14. Liking our bodies.

Does that sound like giving up? Giving in? Unbalanced in any way?

I don’t think so. I think it’s wisdom. We may gain a few more inches on our hips after 40, but with those inches come wisdom. Why don’t they mention THAT on those magazine covers?

Sure, we may mourn the loss of our flat bellies and firm booties, but look at everything we gain: life-experience, patience, self-confidence, grace, perspective, intelligence, balance and a healthy sense of humor about it all.

I don’t know about you, but I’d much prefer I inspire someone with my patience or my perspective rather than the circumference of my waist or the width of my rear end.

Let’s set some new goals, ladies.* Let’s give ourselves and each other permission to grow older. And if we are going to defy something, let it be the misconception that being thin and young and flawless is all that matters to a woman. You will inspire an entire generation of young women coming up behind you.

And that, my friend, is infinitely more beautiful than firm thighs.

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*If you are a man of any age and your testosterone and muscle mass has allowed you to reach all your weight-loss goals and you’re all, “What’s the big deal? Just cut back on the brewskis!“, I think I speak for every one of my female readers when I say, you best be quiet right now.

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Diaries of A Facebook Deactivation

This summer, in an effort to gain some much-needed balance, I coupled my extended blog break with a Facebook break. But I didn’t just break. I took the whole thing up a notch and deactivated my account.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and declare that Facebook is the most intense website in the world. It’s like work, Christmas dinner, a house party, a high school reunion, an online dating service and an awkward elevator ride with exes all rolled into one. Everyone you’ve ever met is there, ALL. THE. TIME. It’s incredibly appealing and wildly off-putting all at once. Why else would people need to forcibly distance themselves from it? ~Reb Stevenson

If you don’t suffer from a Facebook Addiction, you won’t get this post or why I had to deactivate. You are probably the same person who can take “just a bite” of a freshly-baked brownie and walk away. It’s fine. I don’t get you, either. But, I still love you, in all your mental stability and emotionally healthy life habits. Just whatEVER, okay?

For the rest of you, here is a glimpse into my actual journal, as I chronicled the process of my Facebook Deactivation.

 

It’s hard to see in this screen shot, but when you deactivate, a screen pops up asking you, “Are you sure you want to deactivate your account?” And then it says, “Your friend will no longer be able to keep in touch with you.”

And THEN it posts pictures of your friends with the caption, “Angela will miss you. Tammie will miss you.  Nina will miss you.” And so on.

Are you kidding me?

Don’t tell me there’s not some SERIOUS manipulation going on here.  Anyway.  I overcame.  And I Deactivated.  Read on…

Facebook Deactivation

Day 1

I deactivated my Facebook (FB) account about 9 am. It was so strange seeing it go away. I spent the day running errands for vacation prep, and found myself picking up my phone all day long to “check it.” Since the only other thing to check on my phone is email, I checked that. About 30 times. Then I checked the junk email box, twice. And then I checked Rebekah’s (my 15-year-old’s) Instagram. Thrice.

I’m eager to break this habit of incessant checking.

I wonder how often people who are not addicted to technology check emails.

I’m also feeling anxious about not knowing what is happening in life—like events in our neighborhood and updates of friends and family. FOMO—Fear Of Missing Out. That’s an actual thing, you know. I’ve got FOMO.

I wonder how people who don’t have FB know things.

Day 2

It was refreshing to wake up and not have the pressure to check FB while the coffee brewed. I actually unloaded the dishwasher instead. Remember when I used to unload the dishwasher every day when the coffee brewed? I hate having my phone right here on the counter with potential access to the entire world. Maybe I will move the phone charger to the office, instead of the kitchen. I’m in here in this kitchen way too often to ignore my phone.

Here’s something interesting: I “think” in FB statuses. I mentally reword every thought into a short, pithy statement.

Yesterday, Elliana said funny things that would have landed on my page, were it not for the deactivation. I would have taken a picture of my new stack of books and posted something witty about that. I probably would have posted a picture of Rebekah and her cousin during her visit because they are so stinking beautiful.

I’m not sure any of this is bad or wrong…it just is.

Wait. Maybe it IS bad and wrong. I mean—FB has actually changed the way I THINK! That’s insane.

I want to become one of those people who is completely indifferent to FB—the same way I am to Instagram and Twitter. I have absolutely no desire to dwell on those other platforms! Why does FB have such an addictive quality to it? What drug are you secretly emitting into The Internets, FACEBOOK?!

Day 3

Today I thought a lot about people who may not know about the deactivation and might go looking for me, only to find I don’t exist there anymore. Part of that feels selfish. Part of that feels mysterious and exciting.

With extra time on my hands previously occupied by scrolling through my feed, I cleaned out my email inbox. I unsubscribed from everything I could, and deleted almost everything else—about 17,000 emails!!!

I still find myself wanting to post pictures and status updates. I also want to check to make sure people are okay. I know I can do that other ways, like texting or calling or email, but it’s so easy on FB. It’s like a giant, active contact list of every person I’ve ever known.

Day 6

I’m in Florida, sitting on the balcony, listening to the thunder-ocean. I just read a great quote in my Beth Moore study on the book of James, and I thought, “This would be a great FB status.” But other than that, my desire for FB has decreased immensely.

In the 17-hour car ride here (!)(with 4 kids and a husband!), I wandered over to Pinterest to pass the time that would have been spent on FB.

Personal Insight: Pinterest doesn’t do it for me. Pinterest is more like paging through magazines. Pretty but kinda boring. FB is like listening in on my friends’ conversations or paging through their photo albums.

I like the way it feels to free myself from the pressure to take only post-worthy pictures. I can just take a picture and save it for us, without sharing it. Though I still think there is value in sharing. And I suspect I will share again.

Day 8

One full week. I don’t miss it, except that I took some great pictures of the sunset and I wanted to share them. I scrolled through Twitter yesterday, but only because I got a notification that someone retweeted an old blog post.

More Personal Insight: Twitter doesn’t have the same draw for me. Too busy. To impersonal. All those # and @ symbols are so distracting. The sentences are too short. The links are too many. I hate Twitter.

Day 15

I miss being able to post pictures and funny statuses.

I do NOT miss getting sucked into stupid discussions with stupid people.

I do NOT miss picking up my phone every time I have a spare minute. In fact, the phone sits in the charger, untouched, almost the whole day.

Day 18

Jon posted some vacation pics on his Facebook page—first time ever he’s done anything on his FB account. He wasn’t sure what he was doing, so I showed him the FB ropes, thus beginning my reintroduction back into the Vortex. I scrolled through his feed. I read him updates aloud. I checked on family members. I showed him pictures. I posted him a new profile picture that included me, his lovely wife.

You know, maybe removing myself entirely from FB is selfish. For family and close friends who truly DO want to keep up with me and my family, I’m depriving them of that. It’s not about me, it’s about THEM.

Yes. Let’s go with that.

No, really, stepping away has been good—but I miss FB. I’ve had time to break the incessant phone checking disorder from which I suffered. I don’t want to slip back into that, ever again. The key will be to maintain a level of self-control.

FB, you are such a sneaky time-sucker! But I’m onto you.

Day 20

Today, I reactivated my account. Because it’s my birthday, that’s why.

And one of my favorite things about FB is getting hundreds of birthday wishes. I’m not too proud to admit that. I do feel a little bit guilty, though. Like a drunk going back for a drink.

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20 Days Later

It was heart-warming reunion, coming back to FB land. Because it was my birthday, it felt like everyone threw me a “Welcome Back to Facebook Party.” Several people said they really missed me. Others wondered what happened to me.

One friend thought I blocked him.

It has been extremely gratifying catching up with my people. I also like getting back into the neighborhood loop (I mean, how else would I know about the neighborhood yard sale?). It was fun sharing summer pictures that remained dormant during the deactivation.

However.

It was only a matter of days before I was back to checking the stupid thing every spare minute.

Has anyone liked my post?
Has she responded to my comment?
Has she messaged me back?

And the scrolling. The incessant scrolling! Every 10 minutes. All day long. Every day.

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Jerry B. Jenkins once interviewed Rev. Billy Graham about his private devotional life. He asked how often Mr. Graham read the scriptures:

“Wherever I am,” he said, “at home, in my office, or in a hotel room in some other country, the first thing I do in the morning is to leave my Bible open somewhere where I will notice it during the day. I pick it up at odd moment and read a verse or two or a chapter or two for an hour or two. And this is not for study or sermon preparation. This is just for my own spiritual nourishment…This is my spiritual food. I would no more miss this than a regular meal.”

Insert “my phone”  or “my Facebook” where Billy Graham says “my Bible” and we are exactly alike!

Exactly.

Listen, this isn’t Heaven/Hell stuff, all this wrestling with social media. I know that. But I can’t ignore the impact this type of “nourishment” must be having on my heart and my thoughts. It’s like mindlessly digging my hand into a bag of chips, all day, every day, and wondering if it’s adversely affecting my health.

(hint: Yes. The answer to that is yes)

Not a day goes by that I don’t ask the Lord to fill me with Insight and Direction and Wisdom and Purpose—not a single day! I want so badly for God to use me to impact people for His Kingdom. More than simply giving them something to chuckle at, I want to offer them something to MARVEL at. A life completely immersed in Christ.

If that is my true desire, and it is, then I must be more intentional with my time. I must be more disciplined about what I’m sowing into my heart. I simply cannot ignore this any longer.

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New Facebook Schedule, Day 1

Sit down at computer and set timer for 15 minutes.
Read notifications and messages super fast.
Respond to a few.
Read one article.
Like 2 things in my feed.
(Amazing how picky I need to be about what I read when I’m racing against the clock.)

Ding!

Time’s up. Wow. That was fast!

Now, I think I’ll move on to spend the rest of my day doing things with greater eternal relevance.

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“I honestly think that in 10 years from now, I won’t remember anything that I saw on Facebook. But I will remember the things I have done in the real world.” Merijn Straathof.

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Q4U: Maybe it’s not social media for you. Maybe it’s TV. Or music. Or the news. What are you sowing into your mind that is sucking up your time? What could you do to discipline yourself better in that area?

 

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You might also like these posts

What I’m Learning about Myself and Friendship During a Facebook Break

A Novice Looks at Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook Fan Pages

Time Diet/Facebook Fast

God Speaks Through Facebook

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