Bad News on Bingeing

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2016-11-28-1480351093-5664005-themarysue_gilmoregirls-656x353For some reason, I find summertime to be a great season for binge-watching my favorite shows. During the school year while my kids are busy with their full schedules, lounging around and watching TV seems too decadent. I try to be as productive on the home front as they are at school. But in the summer, while they oil themselves up and head to the pool, I’m happy to revisit my favorite series Gilmore Girls for the umpteenth time.

But today I read some distressing news. Studies are revealing the adverse health effects of bingeing on video content. Spending hours in front of screens can lead to vision and sleep problems, deep vein thrombosis, and obesity from all the sitting and eating. Nothing in the report was all that shocking, yet seeing it in black and white brought home to me how damaging my habit can actually be.

Ironically, summer is also when the weather is often fine and suitable for more active pursuits. I have increased the frequency and duration of my daily walks lately. And the summer sun brings cheer that makes me more energetic about household tasks.

Medical experts suggest that if you want to binge watch a show, you should get up often to take breaks, stretch, throw in a load of laundry, walk the dog. You should also prepare healthy snacks to eat while bingeing, such as cut up vegetables and air-popped popcorn. Luckily for me, I still have one child at home, so I’m regularly getting up to help her find missing items, trudge upstairs to wake her up, or do her mountains of sweaty soccer-related laundry.

My husband is fond of saying, “Sitting is the new smoking.” It’s a good reminder that as much as I’d like to hang out with Lorelai and Rory Gilmore all day, I need to be active and productive. That way, at the end of the day, I can feel tired and accomplished and feel justified in enjoying a couple of episodes of my favorite show. Those Gilmore girls aren’t going anywhere, after all.

 

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Out of My Comfort Zone

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In the past, I was something of a fitness buff. Enticed into aerobic exercise by Jane Fonda and her workout videos, I started regular workouts and was amazed at how much better I felt. Even during pregnancy and after childbirth, I would find ways of keeping fit. Today at age 58, I am proud to say that I am reasonably healthy, am not overweight, and have excellent blood pressure.

But my enthusiasm for hard workouts has waned over the years. High impact aerobics and running have given way to power walks and yoga. Yet I fear that I have gotten a bit too comfortable in my routine. So this weekend I am shaking things up.

I have the great good fortune to be spending four days with my daughter at Canyon Ranch, a health and wellness resort in warm and sunny Tucson, Arizona. At first I planned to content myself with walks and hikes in the desert air and some gentle yoga. But when I arrived and found the variety of choices for exercise, I decided to leave my comfort zone and try new things.

Yesterday I did a Zumba class for the first time. I felt a little clumsy, but the class made me reminisce about my days as a Jazzerciser. It was a lot of fun, even if I didn’t exactly look like Beyonce out there. Today I tried indoor cycling. This would seem to be an easy choice, but my derriere begs to differ. I also pushed myself aerobically much harder than I would have even on my fastest walks. Future challenges I plan to take on include strength training, a posture class, and different styles of yoga. I plan to avoid the Pilates studio, though, because it still resembles a medieval torture chamber, if you ask me.

The other aspect of my health this resort is challenging is my diet. The emphasis here is on portion control and healthy choices without a lot of added fat or sugar. I am finding that I can still enjoy meals and have a little dessert without feeling the need to binge on unhealthy snacks. I am hoping this realization stays with me when I return home and have to prepare meals for myself and my family.

My daughter has been the perfect partner for me in this endeavor. Herself a healthy eater and avid exerciser, she encourages me and applauds my efforts. (She also took that photo of me in the cycling studio.) I feel so lucky to be in this beautiful, warm, and perpetually sunny locale with her. Tomorrow we are going on a hike in the nearby mountains, and I can’t wait to check out the wildflowers and giant saguaro cacti.

Getting away has been a perfect excuse for me to reinvent myself and approach age 60 with a healthy mind, body, and spirit. I hope to keep surprising myself with what I can do when I step out of my comfort zone.

 

Every Body’s a Nice Body

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What is the most desirable body – a hard body, an hourglass figure, the waif look? What about the newly touted “dad bod”? The prevalence of fad diets, exercise regimes, Botox and plastic surgery in our culture speak to a deep dissatisfaction with our bodies.

From the time I became an adolescent, my insecurity about my figure caused me a lot of angst. I tried extreme diets and fasting. I was at war with food yet at the same time craved it, especially sweets. I made lame attempts to exercise but lapsed into inactivity. By the time I graduated from high school, I weighed the most I have ever weighed outside of during pregnancy.

But I realize that we have been looking at our bodies all wrong. Lately I have been thinking about how amazing the human body is. Our muscles and bones carry our weight around. Our joints give us the ability to walk, run, hold a child, open a jar, cook a meal, type a blog post.

We take every life’s breath without having to think about it, our hearts pump our life’s blood to every part of our body. And that magnificent organ, the brain, controls it all. How often do we go out to walk the dog or take out the trash and realize how lucky we are to be able to perform such mundane tasks?

Even people with serious physical disabilities are able to do phenomenal things with their bodies. For instance, para-Olympic athlete Tatyana McFadden, who was born with spina bifida and without the ability to walk, has used her upper body strength with great determination to win numerous gold medals and other accolades. My friend Beth, who lost her eyesight at age 26, navigates the city of Chicago with the help of her service dog and uses her other senses to read, write, and conduct memoir-writing workshops around the city.

Of course, we need to care for our bodies. Healthy eating, exercise, and good medical care are all essential to make the most of our bodies’ amazing abilities. Interestingly, it wasn’t until I started exercising for my health and not my looks that the pounds started to fall away. But dieting obsessively or constantly checking the mirror are not healthy.

Children are not self-conscious about their bodies. From the first smile to the first step to the first climb on a jungle gym, kids are jubilant about what they can do with their bodies. “Look at me, Mom!” they shout as they perform a cartwheel or doggy paddle in the pool.

It’s time to take our cue from our kids and start appreciating our bodies in whatever size or shape they happen to be in.