All right, Dandelions, listen up and listen well. We’re not the greatest at self-care sometimes, we all know it. But today? Today is the day I’m going to tell you to get it together. It’s time for tough love. A lot of it.
Stop treating your body like a dumpster.
Why? I’ll tell you why.
In 2012, Chuck Wendig wrote a blog post about “25 Things Writers Need To Stop Doing” and #9 on that list was “Stop treating your body like a dumpster.” It resonated deeply with me. I’ve struggled with my weight ever since I hit puberty thanks to my medication. I’ve done Spark People, Weight Watchers, and have been pressured into losing weight to make others happy and save relationships. I either had great results, but it all piled back on, or I never lost any. It’s discouraging.
And the medications are definitely a challenge.
And you say “Duh. The easiest answer is to stop taking the medication.”
And that is where you are very wrong and ill-informed, and that’s a whole post on why medication is good for you Take Your Damn Meds! For me, my meds, in short keep me from becoming psychotic and homicidal. Not a metaphor. Not a joke. The cocktail I take is some strong stuff and makes me able to maintain a functional quality of life, out of a psych ward, or a prison.
One of my meds in particular is strictly an anti-psychotic. And like all anti-psychotics, they have a major factor that contributes to weight gain. It’s almost an unspoken secret in the mental health industry. Take a medication to improve your life, and be happy, but at the cost of weight gain. I was pretty much resigned to the idea of “Do you want to be a size 6, or do you want to stop crying every day?”
I’ve never been a size 6 (if you count when I was 6), but I did get down to a size 14 from a size 38 once upon a lifetime ago. And now, I’m here sitting pretty at a size 18 after losing almost 90 pounds. Even while medicated. Why?
Because I stopped treating my body like a dumpster. We see it all the time in books on writing craft, or online in stupid Facebook ads, or TV like Biggest Loser, we get needled to take care of ourselves. Like go for a walk, eat a vegetable, drink more water, get more sleep. How many times have we said “Yeah, yeah. Sure, whatever.” Ask yourself Dandelions, did you say that today? Yesterday? The day before? I bet you did.
But then we’re brainwashed into thinking being healthy = being beautiful. And there are ads everywhere for that and discussions on ideal beauty. This is definitely a discussion for another day and one I’m not particularly good at.
But no matter your shape or size, even if you want to shed a few pounds, or more specifically, get off that blood pressure medication or control your blood sugar? You have come to the right place.
Dandelions, I’ll level with you. We make a fuckton of excuses. We know them all. And we find ways to keep making them.
We make excuses out of fear.
“If I go to the gym, people will see me.”
“I don’t like vegetables, so I’m not going to waste money.”
“It’s too hot/cold/wet to go outside.”
My fave: “Sleep is for the weak!”
One: You don’t have to go to the gym. I don’t even have a gym membership. Two: Have you honestly tried a vegetable and prepared it in an appetizing way? Because no. Three: You don’t have to go outside. Even walking around your house is just fine. Four: For the love of god, please sleep. Sleep is good. Very good.
Dandelions, you are given only one body. No matter the shape it comes in, take care of it. I’m not asking you. I’m not saying pretty please. I’m saying get off your ass and do something.
Because if not now, when?
I used to feel like I had to do all-or-nothing, go in whole-hog. I can tell you, I failed every time. And you will too. Start simple. Super simple and super small. Here are 8 tips for you to try.
Drink an extra glass of water during the day.
Just one. And after a week add two extra. And the next week, add three extra. And so on. Your body will actually begin to crave water and hydration is important to keep your blood flowing not only through your body, but your brain too! You’re more mentally aware, and in a better mood because your brain is actually getting the blood supply it needs. If you don’t get enough water, your brain gets hella thirsty. And not hella thirsty in that pleasant way.
I’m always hella thirsty for Aidan Gillen. Aaaaaw yiiiiss! Do drink to your brain! Glug, glug, baby!
Watching TV? Walk to the bathroom and back during the commercial breaks.
Simple enough, right? I mean, you have to go to the bathroom eventually. And if you don’t, you should get that checked out. Seriously. Having a Netflix binge? March in place while watching. It all adds up! And there’s even handy dandy pedometer apps for your phone that will help you track your steps. Or if you’ve never gotten one, get yourself a FitBit. Make yourself a goal, and try to meet it every day.
Trying to sleep? Sleep with your phone and other devices (no tablets or laptops!) out of the room.
Need an alarm clock? Buy an alarm clock. If sleeping without your devices out of the room isn’t an option, set up an app blocker, or internet blocker on a timer and set it to kick-in at bedtime and unlock when you get up. I swear by Block Apps for Android and StayFocusd for Chrome. There’s also Offtime for Android that I deeply love. Not only can they be used for productivity, but also get you settled for sleep! One of mine that was truly monstrous was an alarm clock that I had to enter the Numbers from Lost. I had 60 seconds to do it. If I did it wrong it started blaring the upsetting “SYSTEM FAILURE. SYSTEM FAILURE!” That’ll wake you the fuck up.
Have to leave the house? We all do eventually.
Kids, school, work, etc. But what about fun things? Like going to movies, or the mall? I see a lot of movies. Like a lot. And because Pensacola is a town still living in the Stone Age we used to not have reserved seating at movie theaters. Which means I once stood in line for popular movies a lot. Getting up at 6am for a 7pm showing of Rogue One? Yup. That was me! But walk around the movie theater grounds. You’ll be sitting anyway for a 2 to 3 hour behemoth slog of a movie. (Looking at you Pirates of the Caribbean. Do we really need another one?)
At the mall? Now, you don’t have to become one of those mall walkers who get up at o’dark-thirty, because who has the time?
Unless you want to! But out shopping? You don’t have to worry about people staring at you because everyone else is walking around too doing their own thing. Remember that step tracker on your phone? Do you have a FitBit? Get those steps in! Your body will thank you!
Easiest trick ever that’s a no brainer? Park farther away if you have to go somewhere.
I park in the farthest spot in the lot from the front door of a store, then I take the longest path to get in the front door, and then I lap the inside of the store before doing any shopping. And then I repeat the process on the way out. When it comes to returning the cart? I return it to the cart return farthest from my car and walk aaaaallll the way back to my car. I walk at least an easy two miles going to Target.
Sometimes, peopleing just sucks.
Sometimes the world is just too goddamn loud. And pants are indeed an instrument of the oppressor. But if you’re out in it, sometimes you can’t escape it. Have a support person with you, a friend, a parent, a relative. And designate an area that’s a safe space for you. Could be sitting in your car for five minutes. Could be the solace of sitting on a bench outside the office. You can pop in earbuds and listen to your favorite music to soothe your senses as you grocery shop, or find your gate at the airport. Make your safe bubble wherever you go.
Now what about fruits and vegetables?
You say “They’ll go bad before I eat them!” And I say, “Because you’re buying too much of them.” You really can buy just one apple, or one banana, or orange, plum, avocado, whatever! Stuff that’s priced by the pound? Like grapes? And I can put away some grapes. You can just take some out of that little plastic package and distribute them in other packages. No one cares! The grocery police won’t stop you.
I challenge you to try one new fruit or vegetable a week. Just one. Even dried fruit is fine! My faves are dried apricots, mango, and pineapple, and dried cranberries. I eat sun-dried tomatoes like jerky. It’s actually good. Don’t like the texture? Smoothies are great! Get that vitamin C in you! Vitamin C and citrus is known for bringing people out of depressive states. And Vitamin C makes a happy brain!
Ask yourself: if not now, when? We have only one body, but a lifetime of chances.
Take a chance.