For most of my life, I have struggled with my weight and fitness. I was a chubby kid, not much of an athlete, and that was my life for a long time.
When I got into medieval fencing, I found a sport I had some skill in. There was a period in my mid-30s where I was fencing as much as four or five times a week.
After a super-unpleasant experience following a run across an airport to catch a flight in my mid-20s — I joined a gym. I gained some decent muscle mass — but remained heavyset nonetheless.
However, I developed an excellent resting heart rate, far more flexibility than a man my size or age typically has, and have considerable musculature beneath the flab to this day.
My diet, however, has remained challenging.
There are foods that I have always loved that are terrible for me. Eggrolls, cheeseburgers, pizza, French fries, ice cream, and other high-calorie questionable nutritional value foods. Further, I’ve tended to eat more than I needed — to and past the point of being full.
I loved a good Chinese buffet before the pandemic.
My weight, as such, has fluctuated my whole life. And with it, my cholesterol, A1C, and other vital numbers that blood tests reveal.
To sum up — I am overweight, without taking a statin have high cholesterol, and my A1C needs to come down lest I risk becoming full-on type II diabetic.
To get this under control and improve my health, I must be mindful of where I am now to go where I desire to be.
First, however, I have needed to forgive myself. Why?
The global pandemic took a toll on me
The impact of COVID-19 on the world is still ongoing. It has impacted EVERYONE — even those who deny it.
I count myself extremely fortunate. My wife’s old job and new job both allowed her to work remotely. My writing and freelancing allow for remote work. We both have home office spaces that are perfect for our needs.
But there were losses. I lost four people to COVID-19. The social activities I participated in ended as we locked down, and fencing practices ceased.
So, there I was, seldom leaving my house and getting very little regular exercise. On top of all that, there was an ugly election going on which — despite all efforts and mindfulness practices — still caused stress.
As a result, I not only gained weight — but topped off at the heaviest I have ever been.
Also — because that wasn’t enough fun and good news — my cholesterol went up despite the statin, and my A1C pushed to the blurry edge between pre-diabetic and diabetic.
Something had to give — and I was not about to allow that to be my heart.
Practicing mindfulness of diet and exercise
My wife has also been fighting the same struggle most of her life. Along the way, her numbers revealed via blood tests caused her more alarm than I was caused — which led her to take some drastic but not unsustainable steps.
Please note — we share chores in our home. We both cook, clean, and so on. However, for my wife, cooking is therapeutic. Thus, she cooks most of our meals.
After a lot of research (my wife is amazing at research, just FYI — check this out) we began to practice the Mediterranean Diet.
This is not a crash diet. It is a lifestyle change that is not temporary, but permanent and sustainable.
If you are not familiar with the Mediterranean diet, let me give you the gist of it. Taken from the Mediterranean region of the world — Greece and Southern Italy, specifically — this diet puts a focus on eating more vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, fish, and extra virgin olive oil. In moderation, you consume eggs, poultry, and dairy.
Meanwhile, you very rarely eat red meat, and avoid highly processed foods, trans fats, and added sugars.
In short — more plants, fish, and fewer processed foods.
With this, we also both began to exercise more. Given that regular fencing practices, as of this writing, haven’t restarted — and I’m not comfortable going to the gym despite being COVID vaccinated — we’re walking and using our exercise bike more.
I replaced my dead FitBit with a newer one — and started tracking exercise. Daily, I’m walking 2–5 miles and using the exercise bike for 10–20 minutes.
The result? In about 45 days I lost 10 pounds and lowered my A1C considerably, as well as my cholesterol.
Still, this requires daily mindfulness. To maintain both diet and exercise is a matter of choices and decisions.
Choosing and deciding wisely
Watching TV, I keep seeing advertisements for GOLO. It suggests that most people are suffering from insulin resistance. GOLO offers a supplement that will take care of that to help you lose weight.
If you read the fine print they flash on the screen during the commercial, you’ll see that they present the need for mindfulness of diet and exercise to make it effective. Not to disparage them — because I don’t know — but I suspect the diet and exercise cause the weight loss far more than their supplements.
Changing habits always requires mindfulness. Diet, in the literal sense, is a habit. What and how you eat is habitual. Thus, if you’re like me, you may choose highly processed easy foods and too many carbs and sugars for convenience — without thought of the consequences.
Then, rather than exercise in any way, sloth might win. After a long day at work, most people want to veg out. Particularly when it was a stressful day. Choosing to exercise takes mindfulness.
To get down to a healthier weight, maintain heart health to avoid stroke and heart attack, I need to be mindful of my diet and exercise choices.
In my experience, this gets easier over time. For example, since we began to work with the Mediterranean diet, my desire for processed foods and other unhealthy options has lessened. Since they tend to make me feel sluggish and icky, I prefer how I feel when I eat mindfully.
Likewise, as much as I might want to just veg out sometimes, more exercise isn’t just good for the body, but also the mind and soul. Immediately after a long walk or hike, I might be tired — but my resting heart and sense of self later feel serene.
No such thing as perfect practice
I’m going to address the elephant in the room. Sometimes you slip — intentionally or unintentionally.
There are times I don’t exercise because of legit reasons or simple excuses. Also, sometimes, I give in to the craving and have that cheeseburger or pizza.
And that is okay. In moderation.
As a special treat, once in a while, it’s okay to indulge. You can watch that Netflix show instead of taking the walk while enjoying a bowl of ice cream. But even this needs to be mindfully moderated.
Last time we had pizza, for example, rather than eating the whole pie in one sitting — my wife and I ate half. That left half to be consumed later. Further, since we chose to indulge in pizza, or other meals that day were lighter to make up for it.
And we made sure we exercised, too.
That’s intentional cheats. And they are okay because food can be more than physically sustaining — it can impact mental health, too. Thus, indulging in ice cream might satisfy a need to reconnect with a beloved childhood memory — which allows you to keep moving forward in the here and now.
Also, sometimes you need to rest your body more than exercise it.
When these things occur unintentionally — you need to be forgiving. And forgiving ourselves is frequently a real challenge.
Hence the importance of recognizing that there is no such thing as perfect practice. When you slip — and you will — you need to forgive yourself.
This is part of practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness practice will impact you physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
Human beings are constantly striving for balance. Diet and exercise — and choosing them mindfully — is part of that. Because a healthy body leads to a healthy mind and soul.
Mindfulness of diet and exercise
I’ve been practicing greater mindfulness for a while now. It’s a matter of being consciously aware of your inner being, your mindset/headspace/psyche, which connects you to your whole complete self.
For more specific details of mindfulness (and how they impact your life choices), check this out:
How Do I Know This is Right?
Recognizing what’s right for you is deep inside your inner being.
As this is a practice of mind, body, and spirit — it completely applies to diet and exercise. When you choose a lifestyle of better eating and regular exercise — you are being mindful of your body and how it impacts all the rest of you.
That is good for overall balance, as well as mental health. This is part of self-care. When you are in balance, you’re better able to cope with stress, be effective in what you do, and live the fullest life possible.
Finally — you are worthy and deserving of this. Take that into account. Being mindful of your diet and exercise — as well as your overall spiritual, mental, and emotional self — empowers you. Not only do you get physically healthier — but whole-self healthier.
You deserve to be healthy — and, ultimately, happy.
Thanks for letting me share my process.
Are you practicing a mindful diet and exercise program for your self-care?