Finding The Right Balance For Fitness, Health and Happiness

Celebrating the completion of a week-long sixty     mile canoe camping trip in the BWCA.

Those of you that know me personally or have read my “about” page on this site know that my husband and I share a Martini every Friday afternoon wherever in the world we find ourselves. If we are in the company of others, we will invite them to join us in this weekly tradition. Some might imagine that this practice may not be altogether healthy, given that our drink of choice is mostly straight alcohol (although I might playfully argue that the garlic stuffed olives and “tipsy” onion provide a bit of nutritional value). And I guess I would have to admit that taken out of context, it isn’t as healthy as some other choices we could make. But this ritual has become an anticipated event that helps us to unwind, reconnect and appreciate some time together without the need to accomplish anything.  It takes place after our morning workout at the fitness center, a few loads of laundry, house cleaning, bill paying, grocery shopping, or whatever chores cry out for our attention. It has become an important part of our life balance. And finding balance in life is the key to health, fitness and happiness.

When I was younger, I didn’t have to pay too much attention to what I ate or drank. Because I always maintained an active lifestyle, I was able to mostly stay at a healthy weight for my height. That’s not to say that there weren’t times when I had to cut back on my caloric intake or introduce additional fitness activities into my day to get back where I wanted to be. But I never went on what most would consider a diet. That is until I reached menopause and my body stopped responding in the same way to the calories-in, calories-out model to which I had become accustomed. When I retired at fifty, I made a concentrated effort to stay active. I walked miles a day and watched what I ate, yet I began to notice a slight increase in the size of my waist and thighs, although my actual weight remained fairly constant. A trip to Antarctica just after going through menopause made me realize that I had to step up my fitness game if I was going to get back to that balance that I had always trusted.

Our trip to Antarctica was a three-week cruise where we spent considerably more time at sea than we did on land. And the seas were often rough making it difficult to find ways to exercise on board. Meals on the ship always included lots of beautiful and tasty breads and deserts that seemed to call my name. And we were surprised to learn we had been upgraded to a cabin and plan that offered unlimited wine and beer with lunch and dinner each day of our adventure …who could pass up free? Anyway, that combination helped to insure that I returned home with incredible memories and unwanted extra pounds. In fairness it wasn’t just that trip, but combined with the effects of “going through the change”, I had put on an extra 20 pounds in short order. I knew this wasn’t good for my health and I certainly didn’t like the way it made me look or feel. I made a conscious effort to scale back on sugar and highly processed foods and limit carbs. My husband and I also went on a intermittent fasting diet where we would endeavor to eat no more that 500 calories a day, two days a week. We did that for a month or two and it really seemed to kick-start significant weight loss. In addition we increased our thrice weekly work-outs, both in cardio intensity and weight on our resistance training. It took several months, but I ended up losing over 30 pounds and have kept it off for more than four years.

I have always known that health and fitness go hand in hand. You can’t just watch your diet without doing the requisite exercise or physical activity. You have to focus on both in order to maintain a happy and healthy lifestyle. I guess I just had to be reminded that sometimes the components need to be tweaked a bit now and then to maintain that balance that we desire. Like being able to relax at the end of the week and enjoy a Martini without worrying about the empty calories. A couple of extra miles on the treadmill will balance that out.

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