Battle stations

I’m fighting myself these days.

Here’s the mantra: To make RA easier to cope with, and to be healthy, you must:

  1. Eat mindfully (which means eating, regularly, far more vegetables and fruits than meat, grains or dairy, and decline wicked sugar in all of its forms);
  2. Exercise moderately for a half to a full hour each day (fast walking plus light strength training is a good way to do this);
  3. Don’t do things that aren’t good for your body (smoking; drinking to excess or doing drugs; eating fatty, sugary, salty, empty-calorie snacks).

I know the mantra inside-out. Eating mindfully helped me lose a great deal of the weight I’d gained during a career spent mainly behind a desk, my eyes fixed on a computer screen, my butt in a chair). Eating mindfully is the only way to lose excess weight or to maintain a healthy weight, and doing so takes a great deal of strain off the joints in my lower body. Being lighter on my feet also helps me move more easily. There’s simply not as much of me to cart around.

Moderate exercise is good for many reasons: It speeds up a sluggish metabolism (banana-sluggish in my case). It burns calories. It strengthens the muscles that provide vital support for my joints. It gets my heart going, strengthening it as well. And doing some exercise gets me out of the house for a good dose of sunshine and fresh air while giving me a wider, healthier view of the world.

Smoking causes a myriad of health problems; I don’t need to go into detail about that. Drinking, ditto. Snacking mindlessly causes weight gain and can cause diabetes and high blood pressure.

The idea, if one follows the mantra, is to keep the body light, flexible and strong no matter what age you are or how affected you are by rheumatoid arthritis. I could repeat it in my sleep. And yet … and yet.

Since Christmas – and it’s been long enough now since then that it no longer works as an excuse – I’ve had a terrible time living the mantra. While I try to eat mindfully, it takes no effort at all on my part to rationalize mindfulness away and eat pizza and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches instead. Someone brings home a sack of potato chips, and I’ve got to have my share – or more than my share. Matt makes garlic bread to go with dinner, and yes, I eat my slices of it, even though I know that the white flour the bread’s made from turns directly into sugar in my blood. Same with potatoes and white rice. I’m even having trouble passing the candy display at the checkout counter in the grocery store without buying some.

Exercise? Hah. Yes, I walk Finny. It’s a good thing he’s around, or I’d not be doing even that. But they’re short walks, certainly not the sort that get my body moving or my heart rate up. I haven’t been to Curves for a workout in forever.

I’ve stopped smoking, but I still crave cigarettes Every. Single. Day. I’ve stopped smoking but I’ve succumbed and bought a pack, smoked a couple and threw them out. Then I did it again. I’ve never been much of a drinker, so in that area I’m good to go; I allow myself a small glass of wine with a meal a couple of times a month, which isn’t a change from the bad old days. I don’t do drugs, except those I take by prescription. But the snacking. Ouch. I’m craving salt, fat and sugar in a way I haven’t for a long time. I’m losing the battle to turn those empty calories down.

I still have 40 pounds to lose to reach a good weight and BMI for my height and age. Ten of those 40 I’ve re-gained since the holidays. My “skinny” clothes feel uncomfortably tight, so I’ve been blumphing around in sweatpants.

Yet I really, really want to lost that weight. I really, really want to be smoke-free and as healthy as I can be, in spite of being middle-aged and having RA. So what’s wrong with me? Why am I fighting the mantra so hard?

Here’s what it is: I know what I should do, but it’s easier to say, “tomorrow.”

Tomorrow I’ll eat the right foods in the right amounts, and say no to the bad foods. Tomorrow I’ll hit the walking trail with Finny McCool. Tomorrow I’ll toss out my latest blip in tobacco/nicotine judgement.

No, dear. It has to be today. Not tomorrow. No more being lazy about getting out for a walk. The weather is nice – you can’t even whine that it’s raining. And if it does rain, so what? You have an umbrella.

So the battle continues. I started the day with whole grain, shredde wheat cereal and soymilk. I have salmon in the freezer I can eat for dinner, along with brown rice and fresh asparagus and salad. I have walking shoes and a delightful little dog who would absolutely love to go on a long walk with me. I can go to Curves and do a light workout any day but Sunday. I even have quit-smoking patches in my medicine cabinet, leftover from when I quit the last time. I can start wearing them again until this nasty craving works its way out of my system, this time for good.

It has to be today. And then it has to be tomorrow, and the next day. I simply have to live one day at a time. I lost 50 pounds last year one day at a time. I know it can be done, that I can do it, because I did it.

So, having confessed my sins, I’m outahere. It’s 70 degrees out today. It’s time for a walk.

A real one.

24 responses to “Battle stations

  1. I’m know what you mean. “Tomorrow” is a convenient time to start, but tomorrow is elusive. I need to lose some weight, too. Wanna do it together?

    • WS, I’d LOVE that. Let’s do. I did get my walk today with Finny. We walked about 3 1/4 miles, the last 1/4 seriously uphill. I’m wiped. I’m gonna have a nap now. But I did it! And I’d love to share the battle with a good friend. :o)

      • We had church this morning, then went and bought a pickup. The day is mostly gone and I’m wiped out! Do I get to say “tomorrow?” No? Okay, I’ll have salmon for supper instead of pancakes :D

  2. Good for you, Wren! I lost 70 lbs. about 3 years ago and have kept it off – but it’s hard work. Harder now that I have RA! (Yes, a cruel twist of fate – I lost weight, was the fittest I’d ever been in my life, and then got diagnosed with RA. So much for healthy living, eh?!?!)

    As you said, you really just have to take it one day at a time. Sometimes, I even have to break it down to one meal at a time. If I splurge at one meal, I have to remind myself that doesn’t mean the whole day is shot (as I could easily rationalize). So, even if you slip off the track for an hour or two, forgive yourself and move on. You’ll get to your goal before you know it!

    • Wow. that’s almost as much as I set out to lose last year, VW! Congratulations on your success, and thank you for the encouragement. What a bummer to get RA after such a victory, but man, RA doesn’t respect such things, does it. Still, you’re much better off without that extra weight than with it, RA-wise. I’ll try to remember your advice about one meal at a time, and to not allow myself to think my whole eating day is shot if I splurge. That’s got to be the worst of the excuses to justify “tomorrow,” you know? You’re a wise one, VW.

  3. Hi Wren,
    Welcome to walking! I have been walking between 3 and 6 miles every day — for almost twenty years, in summer and winter (hate the gym, which makes me feel like a hamster on a wheel). After a while it becomes routine – no more extraordinary willpower needed; it’s just something I do, like taking my meds. Actually, it’s very enjoyable, most of the time. We are having gorgeous weather here in Minnesota, the spring flowers are in full bloom, and most trees have leaved out. Will be thinking of you on tomorrow’s walk.

  4. It is always a struggle isn’t it? But, I think each time we make the committment to live a healthier lifestyle, it becomes a little easier. We have been through it all before and understand it. You have done well to lose so much weight and the rest will come. Be patient with yourself. You have taken on a lot – smoke free, diet, exercise and RA!

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  6. Random commentary… When I have my eeeee! Too much sugar! moments, I have taken to switching to agave nectar. You may already know about it, but I love the stuff and it goes pretty well in my tea, so long as you don’t mind that it is a different kind of sweet. Its not synthetically made and I believe it is healthier than sugar (well, table sugar at least).

  7. Wren,

    I am right there with you. I need to lose about 40 pounds and it has been so easy this last week to say “tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow” instead of just going to the gym and putting the time in. Also, there has been a lot of Easter candy around my house. I have more than eaten my share.

    But today I will start again, just like you. I’ll be thinking of you. :)

  8. It’s tough, isn’t it? But look at how much you’ve already achieved! I always say to myself when I don’t want to go out and exercise that I just need to go out for 10 minutes, that’s it. If I don’t feel like doing more of whatever I’ve gone out to do, then I won’t, but I’ll at least do 10 minutes. And, inevitably, once I’ve done 10 minutes, I’m always game for more!!

    It’s a good trick!

    The eating is harder. Luckily, I like relatively healthy stuff to begin with, but I do have a weakness for sweet things, like pie and ice cream….yummmmmmmmm!!!!!!!! So that’s hard. I’m still working on that. Haven’t come up with a good trick for that like the 10-minute exercise trick… Any thoughts? Anyone?

    In any case, keep up the good work, Wren. As I said before, you’ve already done such a great job in so many ways, so just remember that and think how strong you’ve already been and keep going!! You can do it!!
    :) L

    • Here’s my trick: I have eliminated sugar in drinks (after a while, even tea tastes good without any sweetener) and do not eat any sugery cereals, etc. Since I, too, have a weakness for sweet things,I reward myself (no special occasion/reason necessary) by eating a small amount of whatever I crave. So, I buy a petit four (instead of a big piece of cake), or a small bar of chocolate (I am very fond of Lindt) instead of a big one. Portion control does it for me!


    • I’m discovering that setting the temptations in the refrigerator instead of leaving them on the counter (where they’re practically calling my name) helps.

      Another idea: My dad was on a diet one time that had no foods off-limits. Cake, cookies, pie, ice cream… All were okay. The catch was that desserts had to be held under running water for three minutes before they could be eaten. Apples stand up really well to that; ice cream, not so much :D

      • I’ve used Splenda (and before Splenda, NutraSweet) in my coffee and tea for close to 30 years now. And I’ve never been much for sodas, with or without sugar. So I’m good with drinks, and in fact drink more water than anything else. I like your idea, Gisela, about a small treat now and then. Portion control works for sweets and everything else, too. Big portions of veggies, small ones of protein and smaller ones yet of carbs.

        WS, I love your dad’s diet! That’s just hilarious — and effective, too!

    • I try to associate sugar with poison, because in my middle-aged, rather overweight body, that’s exactly what it is. Maybe it will work for you too, Laurie, even though you’re much younger than I am and in much better physical shape overall. Suger=poison. Works for me. :)

  9. Wren – I wonder how many of us struggle with smoking? I wish you luck on quitting. I’ve tried, no success so far. Pretty sure it’s part of my muscle problems, tho.

    • Nanc, thanks for the good wishes. As of today, I’m smoke-free once again and using nicotine patches to get me through that part of the withdrawal. It’s the other part — the habit of actually smoking the cigarette, and its association with relaxation and comfort, that I have a much harder time with. But I do know how much better I feel when I don’t smoke, how much better I breathe, and of course, how much better I smell. I wish you the best of luck when you’re ready to stop. Let me know — I’ll be very happy to help in any way that I can.

  10. Wren – Smoking, my dirty little secret. I feel your pain. I quit for many years then 2 years ago both of my parents became very ill and died within 3 months of each other. During this period I started again. In a small way at first but it has been building ever since and I can’t seem to commit to quitting again. Like you, I have my nicotine gum sitting on the dresser. I know I have to stop because in addition to all the health risks it increases inflammation. Sigh….. Good luck with your quest to better health. Now if only I could commit.

    • When you’re ready to commit, Mary, let me know if you like. I’ll help all I can. Lend an ear, a shoulder, support, empathy and encouragement. Smoking is truly the hardest habit to quit; I’ve done it many times, only to succumb to cravings, but I figure at least I can keep on trying. I’m determined that this time will be the last time I ever stop smoking. Frankly, I’m getting angry with myself over it. Perhaps that will make a difference?

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  13. i’ve found i can’t eat healthily OR exercise, it really has to be both. when one stops, the other soon follows. i’m being a bit lazy in the eating dept lately (i’ve rediscovered honey nut cheerios and start my day off with sugar…hard to get back on track after that!). your 3+ mile walk sounds GREAT…i miss long walks! stupid ankle!

  14. My problem is portion control: if I have something sweet at home, like ice cream, I can’t stop gobbling it up. Solution: hardly ever have it at home, and satisfy craving with fruit and stuff like yogurt… It’s the best thing I can think of. And like Clare, I find that when I’m exercising, I’m feeling better and when I’m feeling better, I’m less inclined to want comfort foods, too…

    Good luck with the smoking, Wren…and enjoy all the lovely walking!! And good luck to everyone else, too, with everything you’re all trying!
    :) L

  15. carlascorner

    Wren: Good luck. One day at a time. You’re my inspiration because I need to get back on your “mantra” as well. Thanks for expressing what so many of us feel.