Progress can be an iffy thing to observe. It is easy to become frustrated and discouraged because some changes just take time. This is especially true of subtle changes in behavior and choice.
Today is the first anniversary of taking a specific steps to improve my life. Truth to tell, it actually represents the end of a week of decisions and actions, but it all came together on December 2nd. Together these decisions represented steps toward achieving one goal: to become healthy. This came down to three major activities – losing weight through a healthier lifestyle, learning and practicing good self-care, recognizing, accepting, and then getting treatment for depression.
So, following some sound advice from someone I trusted, I tackled all of these that one week.
- I consulted my PCP and started a mild antidepressant.
- I sought a recommendation for therapist and set up an appointment and did nine months of really hard work.
- I started with a weight-loss clinic.
- I gave up my diet soda habit cold turkey (it was a very bad habit in terms of quantity).
- I dropped quite a few food choices from my diet.
A year later, I have lost 66 pounds and 10 inches from around my waist, a total of 86 pounds over the last 18 months (I had made some changes in the preceding spring, but hit a plateau). And, yes, I have bought quite a few new clothes, multiple times. I am very close to my goal, which is not about my weight itself, but how I see myself in the mirror.
One of the problems in working with working with a weight-loss clinic is that they are focused on the big number on the scale. This is despite the fact that they measure and record your heart rate and blood pressure on each visit. Why mention this? Because a year ago my resting heart rate was 78 beats per minute (bpm). It is now routinely measured around 52 bpm. Of course, this is not just a function of losing weight, but of also engaging in regular exercising and averaging at least 11,000 steps a day on a bad wee, and 15,000 on a good week. My blood pressure has also dropped and on occasion is very near the low range of values. I might be able to give up the meds at some point.
There was no magic bullet in anything I did. It was all interrelated and all very basic stuff. Treating the depression helped with the weight-loss and lessened the desire to eat crap. The losing weight helped the depression. Counseling led to working on mindfulness. “Mindful eating” assists weight-loss. Studying mindfulness (probably not yet as rigorously and deeply as I hope to do) led to readings in meditation and trying to develop a practice of meditation. Meditation led to early efforts in yoga.
There were also a whole slew of blog posts along the way as I worked my way through the year.
I feel phenomenal. I look better than I have in decades. I am now at about the weight I was in college and in the Army. My health is improved. My attitude and inner self is better, and closer to normally calm.
But my golf game still sucks badly.
Today it was painfully horrible at times. However, I still had fun throughout. I enjoy the game in a way that I hadn’t before. And there is an explanation for the horribleness.
Last spring I played golf and strained my left ankle. The next day I went out for a 10-mile hike in the forest. And then I went to the driving range. On the fifth ball, I screamed. I had clearly torn something in my ankle. So I quite playing for a few weeks and took anti-inflammatories. I played golf again and on the sixth hole I nailed a perfect 275 yard three wood and, you guessed it, screamed.
I got in to see a sports medicine doc and he put in an ankle brace, loaded me with anti-inflammatories, and sent me to physical therapy. After pointing out just how stiff my body was, particularly my ankles, she went to work and gave me a boatload of exercises to do. I complied, she and the doc were satisfied that I had made adequate progress, and I was released with the proviso that I must always wear the brace when playing golf and continue to work on the exercises. The yoga helps with this.
However, because the ankle brace interferes with a normal swing stance and because clearly a normal stance is not ideal for me, I have had to rebuild my swing and that takes time. More often than not it has been better as of late, but not today.
Something else happened in parallel. In the spring I was also experiencing discomfort and pain from my jaw popping while I ate. When it didn’t go away, I schedule an appointment with an oral and facial surgeon….but that was for October. The popping eventually disappeared but I kept the appointment. It was good that I did. He determined that the muscles on the left side of my face were too thick and stiff (and also subject to hemifacial spasms multiple times a day) and that, in all likelihood, the anti-inflammatory used for my ankle had also helped my jaw. He prescribed a med change and more physical therapy.
With another physical therapist telling me just how stiff I am and seemingly unable to relax.
As luck would have it, this therapist also specializes in facial movement. Now, almost eight years following surgery, I am finally getting treatment for the spasms, muscle weakness, and asymmetry in my face. These things may not get completely eliminated, but after only a month of effort, there is progress. And honestly, I haven’t cared enough about my appearance until now to really worry about my face.
More importantly, I don’t think I would have been ready to really do the work until now. The effort, the concentration, it requires to sit an stare in a mirror trying to move just one or two muscles is significant. Mindfulness is required and acceptance that this effort is of value to do.
Progress in many things over the year. Today I am recognizing and celebrating that progress. I am also mindful of just how connected and related all these things are.