Driving back from a party at my friend Julie’s house this weekend, I was listening to a podcast and was reminded of a study about how people make better choices about saving for retirement when they’re exposed to their own age-progressed photographs. A short interview with one of the researchers is here, in Harvard Business Review from 2013.
What they found was, when you imagine yourself as a substantially older person, you tend to think of yourself in the third person. But when you can actually see yourself as that older person, your thinking changes.
As I was driving, I tried to picture myself two years or five years into the future. It was difficult, but I did begin to get the thread of who I might be. A vague and unappealing Ceil peaked through the gauzy neural haze, as though the next 2-5 years might involve some kind of possession by a ghost who likes to ride the rails and smoke unfiltered clove cigarettes.
Not that this lifestyle sounds completely distasteful. But at 46, it’s probably not practical.
As I said, I had been at a party the night before. Sometimes I think that it’s not the quantity of alcohol that you drink, but the number of hours over which you drink it, that does you in. For instance, I don’t think I drank that much wine, but the fact that I drank it for something like 10 hours probably was one of two defining factors of why I felt like a nervous puddle of gritty sweat the next day.
The other factor was that I had finally stopped chatting with friends at about 4am. And I’d woken up just after 9am. That’s actually statistically not bad for me. My new Fitbit tells me that, since I acquired it five weeks ago, I’ve had 16 nights with fewer than 5 hours of sleep. Of those nights, eight contained less than 4 hours’ sleep.
I don’t take care of myself. I used to. But for several years now, I’ve been dealing with Bigger Things and Busier Things. And — even though teams of experts who have studied stress and aging have all but taken out billboards to inform us that taking care of ourselves is most important during times of extreme stress — my own way of dealing with stress usually involved giant helpings of IDGAF and staring into the closest electronic device.
But now, as I was driving, I mentally assembled slides and graphs, and began to have a meeting with myself that began something like, “Look, you’re 46” and ended something like, “…and unless you want to kill yourself, it’s time to stop checking all the way out of your health.”
It’s interesting that, as I’m caught in the throes of any terrible, terrible habit, I know two things conclusively:
First, I know I shouldn’t be doing it; and
Second, if given enough time and space to deal with myself, I know I’ll stop.
Right now, for instance, I’m so bad with paperwork. So, so bad. It’s hard to overstate how much I despise paper, or how puzzled I am that the world has not banded together to either make it stop, or come up with a cute little solution that clips onto a person’s wrist, and neatly, digitally files papers. Or eradicates them. I’m ok with paper destruction. BUT: my relationship with paper is better this year that it was last year. And I’m much better than I was the year before that. I will figure this thing out.
So, I’d said I’d taken care of myself before. Right after my child was born, between 2007-2008, I was finally ready to break my bad habits, and I lost 70 lbs. Here’s how I did it: Diet. And exercise.
I should also mention electronics. These websites/apps helped me tremendously:
My Fitnesss Pal. The ability to accurately and (more-or-less) quickly log, measure, and track my meals was invaluable. You can’t fix what you can’t measure, every corporate HR goal-setter will tell you. But it’s true. You always want to think you didn’t eat THAT much. You’ll always say that ice cream isn’t THAT high in calories. When you log into Fitness Pal, you know exactly how many calories you can eat for the rest of the day. Plus, it measures exercise, water, and macro/micro nutrients.
Freedieting.com: I stop here for the calculators. I admit, I used it a lot more at the beginning of the whole process. But I do think that it’s helpful to calculate which percentage of macronutrients you want to stick to, and then enter those percentages into My Fitness Plan.
Map My Run (or possibly the Fitbit app): There is nothing more satisfying than looking at a route you created on a map, running that route, and seeing your stats. Bonus if you were faster than you were the last time you ran that route.
CalorieKing.com: Out somewhere and don’t know what the average calories, etc are in a given thing? CalorieKing probably has those food stats.
(If you have favorite apps or sites, pls comment below! I love learning about new stuff.)
My other goals, besides weight loss, are a) get more sleep; b) drink more water — and I already drink a lot; c) take my damned vitamins, which I hate with a fierceness usually reserved for unexpected house insects; and d) try to get off my brain meds. (I am new to ADHD. I was diagnosed in 2015, four years after a 2011 concussion. Late ADHD diagnoses in women is not uncommon based on our understanding of ADHD in women. But my doctors tell me that it’s likely my concussion exacerbated a mild tendency toward ADHD, and now I just have it.)
So, today was my first day of Operation Healthy Ceil. Successes include:
- Actual sleep last night. I went to bed at midnight and woke up at 6am. It’s not enough, but I’m planning to build on it.
- Implemented a diet & stayed on it. Day One, of course, is not usually significant. I worked from home today. We’ll see what happens when the morning Flight of the Bumblebees kicks in tomorrow.
- Not enough water. I drank about 4 cups, falling short of my 8-cup goal.
- Didn’t take my vitamins. Ugh. So gross.
- No exercise. Giving myself a mulligan here. My back was hurting pretty badly today. Try again tomorrow.
Operation Healthy Ceil could definitely stand improvement. But it’s a start! Off to bed now. Will post again soon.