Putting “Getting Fit and Healthy” into Perspective


An interesting comment at Worlds, sparks some deep thought and a very long blog post…

Backdrop on the stage at Worlds 2013While I was at the World Championships of Country Western Dance, I pretty much cornered anyone who would listen to me for more than 60 seconds and regaled them with my “plans for the coming year.”

Side note:  for those of you who want me to get to the point without my usual “Tony Ramblings”  *ahem*  Today’s topic is:

“trying to come up with an analogy that accurately encompasses the magnitude of someone’s effort to ‘get fit and healthy'”

Tigger bouncingBut saying it that concisely just sounds way to scholarly for my taste.  And it is Borrrring!  And way *not fun* and way “too brief”, so back to the ramblings of Tony’s Brain as I set up the picture for you.  🙂

So, at Worlds, I “trapped” lots of people and forced them to watch me make like Tigger as I bounced around in excitement and effused about my plans for the coming year!

Just in case you don’t know who Tigger is watch this video:

This enforced captivity on the part of my listeners at Worlds usually started off with the innocent and alluring sounding statement

“Did you hear my good news?  I won a spot on the US DanceSport Team!  China here I come!  then…

Tigger (TM) and Eeyore (TM)*BAM*  *WHAP* *SLAM*

I had them trapped for at least 5 minutes while they listened to giddy bouncy me

Tee-eye-double-GUH-ERR

explain how this single act had galvanized, had capped off, had put the cherry on top, had added the cream to the coffee, had capped off the well, had broken the logjam, had opened the honey pot, etc, etc, (Hmmm… I wonder how many other cliché’s I could stick in this spot? )

But I digress…  he he he — bouncy, flouncy, springy…  😉  T-I-double GUH-R

Moving on… basically before going to Worlds, starting in about November, I “woke up.”  For the first time in almost 3 years, I felt like, well, uhmmm, “me.”  I felt like my life started moving forward again.  The sun was brighter, the air fresher, life just felt, well, Uhmmmm,  “better.”

Shadow Man (CC)Just read back through my blog entries to get just a taste of the stress that I was under.  However, to save time and give you a “taste,”  here is just a single example of the crap that I was dealing with:  for most of last year, 2012 I was out of work because I lost my job.

Being out of work because you choose to be out of work is totally different from being out of work because someone else decided that you no longer had a job.  And this came at the end of years of non-stop stress and undiagnosed depression.  Frankly, looking back, I am pretty damned proud of how well I held up.

Frankly, there were days when things were darkest, that I literally couldn’t get out of bed.  Sounds unreal doesn’t it?  I did a lot of reading and I found that this is not uncommon.

Don’t believe me?  Then do this Google search:  “psychological effects of job loss” or “recovering from a job loss” and start reading.

In November, however, I made a very important decision.

I looked out into my financial future and decided that I was going to give myself a “year off from the 9-5 traditional punch the time-clock world.”  I was going to “start my own business” and hire myself.  My “new job” was now “me” and the “product” of this new company is:

  1. getting me healthy
  2. getting me fit
  3. seeing just how good of a dancer I can become
  4. seeing just how good of a writer I can become and
  5. seeing if I can turn my passions for writing and for dancing into enough of an income to supplement my very small monthly retirement pension.  Stay tuned folks for a very entertaining year as I work on those goals.

Screen Bean Watching his 401k run out of moneyAnyway, that decision, turned my “enforced unemployment” into “retirement by choice” or “self-employment” as a dance instructor (line only now-couples and Pro-Am at the end of the year) and as a writer.  Yes, I’m making money writing, not a lot, but some.  And as an online entrepreneur (more about that in later posts as well-stay tuned).

We will ignore that there is an expiration date in this deal and that my “retirement” has to end at the end of 12 months because that is when the 401k will be exhausted.  And then I’ll become “un-retired”  unless I’ve successfully made the transition to “self-employed.” That at this point is irrelevant.  Beside the point even.

The key thing here is that I made a choice which meant that my job situation was no longer something that was done to me. My “not working”  the standard 9-5 is now my choice and it makes a HUGE difference in the whole mental outlook.  Suddenly I felt back in control of my life.

So… back to Worlds and my trapped listeners. (Isn’t this whole rambling thing a lot more entertaining?)  *GRIN*

But I digress…

So there I was, at Worlds with my new “plan to transform Tony” in my proverbial pocket and Voilà

[cue the heavenly choir and the 5-piece band and the 100 maidens strewing rose petals and laurel branches in front of the triumphant Roman General entering the Gates of Rome]

Knight with a Team USA Shield facing the wicked dragon…I won a spot on the US DanceSport Team.  Here in a single package is a laurel that is both reward (for hard work done so far) and a goal for the rest of this year.

It is a “shield” that I can thrust between me and temptation whenever temptation should dare venture forth from its lair on its evil quest to ensnare the valiant knight (that would be me) on his quest toward health and fitness.

Think about this folks.  I now am on the “US DanceSport Team.”  I am going to another country (hopefully wearing some cool “Team USA” gear).  That country is fourteen time zones away, on the other side of the planet, 20 hours travel time, and I will representing my country in an athletic sporting event modeled on the Olympic Games.

Team USA DanceSportIndeed, representatives from the IOC will probably be there watching the event since this whole thing is something of a “Proof of Concept” which will determine when and how DanceSport is added to the Olympic line up.  It might be televised (I hope) and no matter what, this is a BIG-DEAL!

Wow.

[cue the close up shot of the hero gazing resolutely into the future and cue the 50 piece orchestra playing “inspiring” music with lots of strings]

Not to put too fine a point on it, but I am NOT going to walk into that stadium, in September 2013, representing my country without looking like an athlete!  Can you imagine the scene….?

Opening Ceremony London Olympics 2012 USA Entry into stadiumThere we are in Kaohsiung Taiwan, at the World DanceSport Games. The American Flag comes in, followed by the US DanceSport Team, the announcer calling the names of the countries as they march in, music playing, confetti flying, spotlights waving around, and a very nice older gentleman on the front row, turns to his wife, points to me (as I look now–round and very-not-fit) and says:

How nice, they are letting the parents of the athletes march in with the team.” 

Oh no he did-UNT!!!!!!
Do not make me take off my earrings!  *SNAP*
I’ve got your  “…parent of an athlete…”  *snap* *SNAP*
Bring it on girlfriend!

*ahem*

But I digress….  I do that a lot don’t I?  Moving on….

So, just to refresh your memory, I had already devised my plan for 2013.

This goal / reward of getting on the US Team is just the ribbon that ties it all up into a nice pretty package, providing a neat concise image to keep in my mind whenever facing a hard choice on the fitness/health battle lines.  (The aforementioned shield against that foul dragon named “Temptation”)

Worlds 2013Still with me?  Now, picture the scene, at Worlds, in the ballroom with music playing and competitors dancing and my captive listener says,

“That’s great news!  Congratulations, you’re going to have a great time in China.  Good luck on your fitness goals; boy I can relate, I gained 5 lbs over the holidays and it was a awful getting that back off.” 

Oh no he did-UNT!
Excuse me?!!!!???  5 lbs!?!!  FIVE pounds????  FIVE?!
Hey boyo!  Let’s talk about me needing to lose so much weight it qualifies as a small human being?  Hmmmm?

Good Me-Bad Me ©2011

[EDITOR’S NOTE:  We must offer an official apology.  Tony was momentarily possessed by the DARK SIDE.  He strayed from the path.  He consorted with badness.  He spoke forth with callous disregard for those to whom loosing 5 lbs is difficult!    BUT Fear NOT!  The upstanding ladies from S.L.U.T.S. —

Southern Ladies Under Tremendous Stress”

…have performed an intervention, and administered massive quantities of mint juleps, this followed by a application of lace fans and use of a rhinestone tiara,  have brought Mr. Tony back into the light.  He now may continue his tale… ]

Good Tony:  I appreciate that my friend was being supportive and helpful and kind and a good friend and all that….

Good Tony:  his innocent statement had an unexpected benefit — it caused me to start thinking seriously about how I could truly explain to someone who isn’t in my shoes just how difficult this whole “getting fit and health” thing REALLY IS!

By the way, if my friend reads this and recognizes himself in this story, I owe you a six-pack of your favorite beverage for getting this whole train of thought going in my head.  It is a very good blog topic.  *hugs*  and thanks.

So, in all seriousness, congrats on you losing the 5 lbs.

Sliding into “Bad Tony”: I do realize, from a purely intellectual standpoint, that for a skinny fit person, loosing 5 lbs is like me loosing 40 lbs. It is all relative.

I truly do understand that 5lbs is a LOT for a skinny person.  On an intellectual, mental, cerebral level…  I do.  Really.  I do.

Really trying to not become “Bad Tony”:  And, getting fitter and healthier ain’t easy folks, no matter how you cut it, or what the amount is.  We are all fighting uphill for any physical improvement so any effort and any amount of success should be applauded!!!!!   5 lbs is Awesome….!

Obstacles between you and your goalsThe DARK SIDE manifests its awful power!!!!  Meanwhile in the deep recesses of Tony’s brain a demented voice cries out:

5 lbs”  He said! “5 lbs.”  FIVE????  Aaaaaaaiiiieeeeee

All hope is lost.  Please join S.L.U.T.S. for a memorial service in honor of “Good Tony”  Time and location to be announced.

But I digress..  Hmmmm where was I?  Oh yeah….

The scope and scale of the situation implied by the simple statement “I’m working on getting fit and healthy” is usually incomprehensible to someone who is already fit and healthy.

We’re not talking about loosing a couple of pounds here.  We’re not talking about cutting back on salt in the diet.  We’re not talking about toning some muscles, we’re not talking about going from a size 6 to a 5 for the ladies or for the men moving from a size 34 jean back into those size 32 jeans.  We are talking about all those things, of course but those are details.

What I’m getting at is something far more fundamental and basic than that.  Here it is presented as a simple mathematical formula.

“getting fit and healthy”  =  changing everything in your life”

Everything I do in my life from getting out of bed in the morning, to brushing my teeth, to putting on clothes, to tying my shoes, to driving my truck, to shopping, to climbing stairs, to dancing, to…

well EVERYTHING that I do during the day is affected and affects my fitness and health.  Everything.

Why? Because my body is present whenever I’m present.  And I use my body to get all the bits and pieces of life “done.”

As we move though our day, every step we take, every breath we breathe, every bite we eat, every sip we drink, every action we perform and every decision we make, all affect our bodies and our health.

life-changing-experience-aheadLet me try to find some analogies that might, just maybe, describe the scope of how “life changing” the process of “getting fit and healthy” is.

Because everything is involved in the process, “getting fit & healthy” might be compared to:

  • Having a baby.
    ..
  • Having an unplanned baby.
    ..
  • Having twins or triplets.
    ..
  • Finding yourself as the permanent caretaker for a loved one (Examples: elderly parents, adult child, injured or disabled spouse, nephew or grandchild who looses their parents and you have to step in and care for them.)
    ..
  • Immigrating to a country where you do not speak the language.
    ..
  • Becoming drug or alcohol free if you are an alcoholic or a drug addict.
    ..
  • Having a situation (accident? disease?) where you become physically disabled and are told that with years of physical therapy you can regain most of your motor skills but t that if you *ever* stop the regular physical exercises that you’ll return to a disabled state within 1-2 years and any/all your progress you might have made, will be lost, gone as if it never happened.
    ..
  • Being drafted and sent off to war.
    ..
  • Being a refugee from a war.
    ..
  • Changing your gender from male to female or female to male.
    ..
  • Sailing around the world alone in a tiny boat.

Changing your lifeWhat is so frustrating about trying to get fit and healthy is just how intertwined with everything in your life it is….it isn’t something that stands alone outside of your life — it IS your life.  Change one tiny thing and the rest of your life adjusts.  Then change another and there is another adjustment.  And it never ends.

If you look at the possible analogies up above you’ll notice that they all share a common element: managing these life changing events appears at first glance to be “under your control.”  Further examination however reveals that they actually combine many things which are under your control and a lot which are not under your control.  Or some things may be under your control, but only if constant and massive effort is applied.

What makes “getting fit and healthy” appear so deceptively easy, is that many of the individual tasks required to achieve that goal are indeed, easy to do, very achievable, once or even twice or continuously for a short period.

But, to get fit and healthy and then remain fit  and healthy, you have to keep on doing them.  All of them.  Forever.  Always.  For the rest of your life.

Taking a single example of “something healthy for you to do” — You can’t just “drink 8 glasses of water” on a single day.  You have to “drink 8 glasses of water” every day for the rest of your life, without exception, without fail, without missing more than the occasional day here and there..  Ever.

It makes you want to just give up and crawl back in bed with a pizza and a tub of ice cream doesn’t it?  It can be overwhelming.  No wonder so many of us try to fail to make the changes.

Bring me mai coffee or I poopz on the bed ©2011Here is perhaps a concrete example that most people can relate to….  “Cutting down or giving up on caffeine.”  Caffeine, in case you didn’t know, is the most commonly used addictive drug in the world.

Now, think back on the last time you tried to “cut down” or “give up” sodas or coffee or tea.  How did it go?  How long did it last?  Was it easy?  Did you succeed? If you did, then you are one of the very very VERY few who manage to kick the habit.  Most fail.  Try.  Fail again.  Try again.  Fail yet again.  Try.  Fail.  Over and over.  It ain’t easy!

And “cutting back on caffeine is only ONE POSSIBLE THING that might be part of a larger “GETTING FIT AND HEALTHY” regimen! 

AaAAaaiiiiiiiiEeeeeeeee!!!!!!

Where are my bon bons?  My inner-domestic diva is having a crisis.

Are we starting to get it?  Starting to understand?  Is it starting to make sense?  Is the scale of the job coming into focus?  Hmmm?

Fast Food in AmericaNow, for fun and giggles, let’s throw some of the “environmental obstacles” that abound in American Culture and what is merely difficult becomes damned near impossible.  We are constantly bombarded with temptations and enticements to make poor choices.

Pull up to any major intersection in a non-residential area in any part of the country and take a look.  On or near three of the four corners I bet you’ll see a combination of fast food restaurants and convenience stores/gas stations filled with bad choices for food.

Eat at any restaurant in America and you’re given enough food for two people. What the hell is up with that?

Go into a supermarket and start pricing foods.  The cheapest most affordable foods are the ones that are bad for you, full of chemicals and preservatives and are processed to the point that if there wasn’t an ingredients list, you’d never know there was actual food in there.  And those foods are prominently displayed and promoted!

Walk?  Anywhere? Are you kidding?  We get in our cars in America to go half a block to the corner store!  We get in our cars to go to a gym to work out for gawd’s sake!  Sheesh!  When I visited cities in Europe, like Copenhagen, I was impressed with how most of the populace is appeared fit and trim and healthy.  Why?  My theory is that the environment they live in fosters health.  There is a distinct lack of a fast-food and car culture!

Granted that in many parts of the US, we do have huge distances to cover (like here in Texas), so a car is a necessity, but it shouldn’t be!  Chicago residents routinely top the “healthy cities to live” because of the urban street culture that exists in that city.  You can live in a neighborhood, walk to just about everywhere you need to go and then commute to work on the L and take the occasional taxi when you need it.

Why isn’t there a high-speed train connecting Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio, Houston, Galveston and Corpus Christi?  Hmmm?  I’d take it if it were there!  Imagine a 60 minute relaxing train ride to Houston from Dallas instead of four hours of traffic with people who don’t understand that tailgating is not only unsafe, it is against the law?  Hmmm

But I digress.  Uh, no, actually I’m not.  All this is a perfect example of how your fitness and your health is all mixed up with every other bit of your life.

I noticed when I visited Europe, that Europeans walk everywhere and all the restaurants are local eateries.  Very little fast food, everybody walks or bikes short distances or takes the train/subway for longer distances and walk/bike on either end.  The city is designed to get people on their feet and moving!

Wow, what a concept!

Puppy Dog Look (CC)If you’re single, like me, you face another challenge.  Shopping and cooking for one.  I hate throwing away food.  I am fortunate to live in a wealthy western country with lots of food choices but it pains me to know that so much of the food here spoils and is tossed before it is eaten.  But packages in the supermarket are mostly geared toward the “family” which mean huge econo-size and those packages require additional work and re-packaging on my part when I get it home.  Ugh.

And, truthfully, I don’t cook.  I heat up.  If it isn’t pre-packaged and pre-cooked, the I don’t have the skills to deal with it.  Assemble ingredients?  You might as well have me perform open heart surgery.  I’m just about as skilled in both!  Eeek!

I’m not saying that there aren’t solutions or ways to work around any of these problems I’m mentioning.  My point is that getting fit and healthy IS NOT EASY!

Viva Le Revolucion!If it were, we would all be fit and healthy.  What I’m saying is that if you set your personal goal to be fit and healthy, then you’re settling in for a Cold War; a Guerilla War .

A war that never ends and one where the battle lines are the daily activities of your life.  And there are hidden land mines and snipers everywhere to make the war tougher on you!

Getting “fit and healthy” represents such a fundamental life changing process that there should be a word to describe just how “BIG” a scale where discussing.

There are some negative words that imply the kind of scale that I’m describing. Words like: “catastrophic” “apocalyptic” “earth shattering” and “cataclysmic” but I’m unaware of any “positive” terms that encompass that kind of scale I’m talking about.  Maybe “revolutionary”?

And… …we won’t even start talking about getting health care (or the lack thereof in the US).  If you do become sick when you’re like me and living on a 401k and do not have health insurance, then good luck.  Ugh.

My Inner Domestic Diva on a Soapbox ©So… It sounds like I’m whining doesn’t it?  Like my inner diva has taken over completely.

I promise you I’m not.  At least not on purpose.  I’m just trying to bring some perspective to the process.  To offer words of support to those like me who are embarking on this trek.  And to perhaps make it more understandable for those to whom being fit and healthy comes naturally.

I’m attempting to point out what looks deceptively simple is absolutely the most difficult and complex thing imaginable.

Getting “fit and healthy” isn’t something that you “do” as a single part of your larger overall life.  “Getting Fit and Healthy” is so inter-twined and inseparable from one’s life that instead of saying

“I’m working on getting fit and healthy”

one should really say something like:

“I’m working on removing 75% of the current activities in my life and replacing them with different activities and I realize that the impact of doing that is so great that the remaining 25% of things will bear little or no resemblance to how they looked before.”

So, for all you folks out there who have tried and failed and tried and failed and tried and failed… (1) you’re not alone, and (2) you’re not imagining it–this is HARD!

Celebrate the small things.  Set individually achievable goals then reward yourself when you get there.  Shout to the rooftops how you are doing.  Share your story.

Cat Diva Kitty – I iz awesome! – with Watermark ©2012And be prepared to take your earrings off when somebody belittles you when you say “I passed on the chocolate cake yesterday.”  Or “I only ate half the food on my plate and took the rest home to have as lunch the next day.”

Or “I used Stevia instead of sugar….” or… whatever tiny success you have, treasure it, share it and revel in it.

Because you are doing the equivalent of sailing around the world solo.  It is a Herculean task.

There, ultimately, is no one there but you to keep yourself on track and moving forward.  Yes, you have supporters calling in on the radio but out there in the middle of the Pacific with a storm bearing down, it is just you and the waves.

Wish me success.  This process is achievable, and I will make it.  2013 is going to be my year.  But it ain’t gonna be easy.

Stay tuned for reports from the front lines.

See you on the dance floor!

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About TxCowboyDancer

Eight time Country Dance World Champion. I love to dance. In the middle of a journey, transforming myself from "unemployed and out-of-shape" to "in-shape and full time dance instructor, writer and graphic artist."

Posted on Tue, Jan 15, 2013, in Misc and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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