Through all of our best intentions, we don’t seem able to live the ideal healthy lifestyle. “Ideal” is subjective, as is “healthy” to a certain extent. But at even it’s simplest definition, an ideal healthy lifestyle is more of a lofty ideal than a reality in our home.
And it’s not through lack of wont. For some of us, anyway. Bean is active every day and Jason is training for a marathon. There are healthy habits in our household.
What I find frustrating for myself is, where does one find the time for the minimum amount of effort, and then just a little bit more?
Within the first six weeks after Peach was born I had easily lost a total of 30 pounds. The months following I’ve gained back ten. I am still 15 pounds heavier than when I became pregnant last year. I don’t complain because it’s useless – useless and silly when you aren’t taking steps to lose weight. And I have not attempted to exercise nor have I changed my diet much. I am eating less fast food because we are on a strict budget, and I have recently made the effort to take the stairs at work. This is possible because I have stopped wearing high heels to the office almost entirely in an effort to ease the pain in my knees. Which I am sure could be alleviated further by losing weight.
So here is the thing: This post is going to come across as whiny, but it is a legitimate question that I pose to you, my readers.
Where does one find the time?
For years I have made a habit of knowing as much about my friends’ lives as possible, at least the important pieces, because geography and lifestyle make it incredibly difficult to keep in touch as often and as well as we would like. Fortunately, social media helps with that and I am able to at least take away the highlights. As part of this, I have learned not to compare myself to my friends and understand that we are all living different lives with different challenges. And we only make clear those things of which we wish to share with others. I would never want to trade places with anyone else, but I also use others’ situations as a gut check for myself and ask, what would I do? How would I handle xyz? Is that behavior appropriate/possible in my life? You can learn a ton about yourself using the view from someone else’s shoes.
This is never as true as when it relates to healthy lifestyles.
I’m going to pick on my friend Sean who has made an amazing transformation in the past year and continues to push himself and his potential to the limit. If you haven’t read or discovered his blog, See Sean Run, please check it out at http://seeseanrun.com/. Lots of great information. I am in awe of his accomplishments and use it as inspiration to improve my lifestyle. He has a tendency to communicate in what I like to call “extreme language” that really makes you dig deep and force yourself to find a stance on an issue. He can be polarizing on any topic, and I love it. His attitude toward diet and exercise is no different.
Something has happened though in his criticism of people and families who live unhealthy lifestyles: I have found myself identifying with those on the business end of his rants.
Fast food is crap, yes. But guess what? It’s also CHEAP and FAST. Sometimes that’s necessary. Some weeks, it’s necessary more often than other weeks. And though I wish we didn’t have to partake at all, and it would certainly be irresponsible to feed your family like that every day, I don’t see the harm in doing it occasionally. But I do understand folks who have to use that option frequently.
And some nights the change in my car feeds our family from the dollar menu at McDonald’s.
Because it’s hard to be healthy and balance your budget and balance your family and balance your time. Maybe it’s just me, and maybe it’s my need for information and analysis and research and maybe just a little bit my need to do things perfect in order to define them as “done the right way” – but I am overwhelmed with the idea of changing our lifestyle.
Yes, I understand the strategy about incorporating small changes at a time. Anything worth doing is worth doing right, and it is a marathon, not a sprint.
For the 4th of July we had a party at our house to celebrate the holiday and the birthday of one of my best friends. We purchased brats and hot dogs to grill and serve the guests. Now we have leftover uncooked hot dogs. I know you might be thinking, “Buying hot dogs is your first mistake.” But when feeding a large group of people on a budget, that is what we selected. I splurged on the kosher dogs, if that makes any difference. I’ll admit I did buy cheap buns made from white flour and loaded with refined sugars, I’m sure. Tonight we are going to grill and eat the rest of the hot dogs. Is that what I want for dinner? Not particularly, but it certainly saves me from spending more money on some other protein and it also ensures that the dogs don’t go to waste.
What’s my point?
My point is I feel like I don’t have time or money to live the lifestyle that is supposedly “the best” for us. I keep adhering to my father’s suggestion “everything in moderation”, but irony is not lost reflecting on the wise words of health from a diabetic alcoholic who died from heart disease.
I don’t want that to be me. Or my children.
And my husband’s father passed away from cancer in his 40s. I don’t want that to be my husband.
Anyone who knows me well knows that I am terrified of commitment and that I don’t like to make important decisions unless I have exhausted all available research. And in order to change my family’s lifestyle, research is required. I don’t want to waste money making the wrong decisions. There are so many contradictory studies out there it’s tough to separate fact from fiction without being well-informed of the research.
I’m writing this blog post right now at work while some statistical software is running and one might argue that I could be researching a health topic instead. That this is one of the opportunities I complain about not being able to find. Maybe it’s that I have the opportunities and I don’t take advantage of them, or take advantage in the wrong ways.
Having Peach has really caused us to dig deep and evaluate our health behaviors. We want to be alive and healthy for our children and able to play and explore and have adventures and make memories. I don’t want to sit on the sidelines while my children experience life on their own, because I am overweight and out of shape with arthritic knees. I want to hike and swim and ride bikes and play soccer and take surfing lessons on vacation and chase them down the beach. I was young when Bean was young and we had those experiences together.
There’s my motivation.
Writing that previous paragraph and visualizing as I wrote suddenly made me realize that I need to do what needs to be done. Find the time for exercise.
Because I woke up yesterday morning and took care of the animals while Jason fed Peach and Bean got a ride to soccer practice. I showered and left for the office, and the babysitter arrived so Jason could get ready for work. I went home during lunch to see my sweet girl and changed her diaper and put her down for a nap. I picked up the toys in the living room and stood in the kitchen eating the sandwich I made, then cleaned the counters, emptied the dishwasher and filled it with the dirties from the sink. I went back to work. I came home from work and spent time with Peach until Jason came home, and then he took over so I could change out of my work clothes. I took Bean to soccer camp and came home. Then Jason handed her back so he could change into his running clothes. We spent time together with Peach until she was ready for bed. Jason put her to sleep and then headed out for the required amount of miles according to his marathon training schedule. I changed out the laundry I didn’t finish the day before and did some work on the computer for a business that I am starting. Jason came home, took a shower, and then we made and ate dinner together. Afterward, it was Jason’s turn on the computer to work, and I called my business partner for a scheduled phone meeting. Then it was time for bed.
Get up and do it all again.
Admittedly, I should be waking up at 5:30 instead of 6:45 every morning and walking a couple of miles. Absolutely. Because there is no time for me to do it in the evening. Not when both partners need to exercise and the baby goes to bed by 8:00pm and her older brother is out at his own activities. But what about eating well? That’s my biggest struggle.
I don’t eat breakfast. Neither does Jason. I have coffee when I get to work. Not sure what Jason does. I eat lunch at home to save money and Jason has a cheap lunch in the cafeteria at work. We both try to make healthy choices. I’ve tried to purchase healthy items at home lately according to what is on sale at the grocery, but in a battle between health and budget, I’ve got to go with the budget. Ramen noodles are full of sodium and other crap but they are also dirt cheap and take literally two minutes to make.
Maybe I am just full of excuses.
I unfairly called out my friend Sean, and I don’t mean to pick on him. He is a lovely person and he and his wife are among my favorite people. He isn’t really the target of my frustration. The true issue is that when I research healthy lifestyles I find a lot of articles and blogs and opinion pieces from so-called experts that criticize the choices others are making. But the solutions these experts offer for those they criticize are rarely realistic for everyone. Healthy lifestyles are not a one-size-fits-all. And if your healthy lifestyle is also your main source of income I’m even more skeptical. If it’s your JOB to live healthy then I can’t identify.
And it’s frustrating for folks like me who desperately want to change but have factors limiting our ability. Again, maybe it’s just excuses. But I find life challenging and overwhelming. And maybe I am the biggest bully to myself and the one who is unrealistic. Perhaps I should change what I feel our ideal lifestyle SHOULD be and focus more on what it CAN be. After all, no one else is living our lives. No one else can tell us what is right for our family.
Because Jason and I both work full-time jobs that occupy our time 5 days a week from 8:00am-6:00pm, while I add 20-25 hours per week devoted to my own business and my husband spends a few extra hours exploring additional opportunities. Because we and my ex-husband are co-parenting a teenager and helping him to navigate through high school and prepare for college and train to be an elite athlete. Because we have a beautiful baby girl with whom we are lucky to spend 3 hours a day Monday through Friday. Because we live paycheck-to-paycheck and sometimes that isn’t even enough, and we spend hours going through our budget and our bills and planning a strategy for the future so that one day we can buy a bigger home for our family. Because we are trying to have another baby. Because I am trying to lose weight. Because Jason is training to run a marathon this year to celebrate his 35th birthday and the birth of his daughter. Because we have to clean our own house, constantly – its small and we have kids and four animals. Because I want to write regularly in my blog and create a real website on which to showcase my posts and photos.
Because we feel pressure from certain factions of society and yes, even from some of our friends, to do so many more things than what we are doing now. Cloth diapers and breastfeeding, homemade baby food, trips to the Farmer’s Market, organic fruits and vegetables, whole grains, grass-fed beef from humane and reputable companies, less meat but more protein, less dairy, less sodium, less fat, no fast food, at least 30 minutes of exercise per day, strength training, yoga, household crafts and improvements from every god damn board on Pinterest. We should also be well-informed on politics, topical pop culture, and the local KC scene. It’s too much for some families.
It’s too much for us.
Something has to give.
Look – I’m not trying to be a martyr. Life is challenging, yes…but beautiful and amazing. I’ve never felt so loved or have loved so well as I have these past few years. Most of the choices I make don’t feel like sacrifices. But I’m a fighter, a hard worker, and also a perfectionist. And I will never stop challenging myself and my family to live better, to be better. But to whose standards? Who makes the rules? And why must we judge others and their behavior?
Why must we judge ourselves?
It’s a tough mental exercise, to evaluate ourselves and our lifestyle. The outcome can only be positive as we work toward trimming the fat, both literally and figuratively, from our lives. In doing so, I find myself wondering if there are other families with the same struggles. There are so many families like ours, millions of families trying to do the right things every day. And some of those families have more children, make less money, don’t own their own house, work multiple jobs outside the home. How do they make sacrifices? How do they choose when to be healthy? What does exercise look like in their household?
When someone asks me if I know about the food that I am putting into my body, and the bodies of my family, the intelligent, rational side of me longing to be educated wants to respond, “No, please tell me so that I can make an informed choice.”
The other part of me wants to ram my Volcano burrito down that person’s fucking throat.
Oh, the dichotomy of a mother’s ego.
Society has made it nearly impossible for the average middle income families to live “ideal” healthy lifestyles. Health is big business and costs big bucks, from organic foods to fitness centers. When money is available, the next obstacle is time. Families are all about sacrifice and compromise. The great struggle becomes BALANCE. We wrestle with our own private guilt about our choices and it’s magnified by expert camps simultaneously shouting at us that we should be spending more time with our children AND spending more time on ourselves. And saving the planet at the same time. It’s enough to make you want to lay down in the quiet of the dark and play Candy Crush until you fall asleep. And don’t think I haven’t done that.
Ultimately, the most successful and the most happy people are the ones that “do” when everyone else is “don’t”. My husband and I can complain about our situation or we can make a united effort to support one another and a healthy lifestyle that fits reasonably well within the context of our unique household. And be there to remind one another that picking up a $5 hot-and-ready from Little Caesar’s for dinner does not constitute a parental fail.