“To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.” – Henri Bergson
It’s pretty easy to look good when you’re young. For those who don’t look their best at this stage of life, it’s often being overweight that’s causing them to hate their selfies. I know looking sexy in my halter tops was a huge motivator for me. Looking fabulous, in most cases, is the only incentive necessary to start a diet and exercise regime — those dramatic before and afters are indeed enticing.
However, there comes a point when your looks become less of a motivator (although not entirely) because, let’s face it, beauty contests have become a losing proposition. That point is now for a lot of Boomers, including yours truly. You may still long to comfortably cross your legs, but beyond that, how do you get yourself to start and stick with a healthy eating and exercising regime as you age?
For the health of it
Health can most definitely be a motivator. Especially if you have one of many weight-related conditions, such as high blood pressure, pre-diabetes, arthritis, cancer, or cardiac disease. Maybe your doctor has even been delivering some embarrassing and scary lectures. But many of us have tuned out those weight-related sermons, and have chosen instead to eat whatever we like, remain sedentary, and convince ourselves that’s okay.
We tell ourselves “Well, you have to die of something,” or “You only live once, might as well enjoy it,” or “I’d rather be dead than eat all that rabbit food.” Of course, these little sayings become less credible as our projected long stretch of time on this earth begins to grow shorter. The older we get, the more we find ourselves wanting to prolong that time in whatever way we can.
Still, health can only go so far in the motivating department, especially for those of us without major health issues (knock on wood). I’ll admit to struggling with this issue of motivation as I age, as I have always been one of those vain types who lost weight to look good.
If it feels good, do it
What I find myself thinking about more and more is the way being at my right weight, eating healthy and exercising make me feel. If I eat healthy, not crazy, to keep my weight down, I feel so much better than when I am eating junk and always focused on my next meal. I don’t obsess or even think much about my body, which is something I really enjoy. It reminds me of being a kid, when I didn’t even know what a diet was, and I never worried about my body.
I imagine adding more movement to my life will be just as positive. That’s the way it was with working out in my past; if I didn’t overdo it, exercising gave me more energy. More recent efforts have also served to clear my brain fog and relieve some minor joint pain. Building strength by lifting weights may also help my bones, especially important since I have osteoporosis. And stretching will increase my flexibility, so I’ll be able to stay active as I age. Finally, I have more confidence when I look my best and follow through on the promises I make to myself.
Finding the new “why”
In addition to my walking program, I plan to add a short (should take about 15 minutes) weight and stretching workout to my day, six days a week. It’s actually a routine I clipped out of a magazine, probably 30 years ago, thinking I could slip this small amount of exercise into my then extremely busy day. Now, all these years later, my reason for doing such a simple, short, none-too-taxing workout is different. Now I am thinking I may not burn out before I begin if I start with this non-scary routine.
Shaping up, not shipping out
Adding exercise to my day reminds me of something my Dad used to say to us when we were kids “Time to shape up or ship out.” It sounds like some sort of stern military warning, but it was always delivered with a twinkle in his eye (much as his “Do you think you’ll ever amount to anything?” which can be a confusing question for a 5-year-old).
I think the time has come for me to “shape up or ship out” in regards to my physical, mental, and emotional health. But I am going to take baby steps to get there.
How do you stay motivated to improve your fitness? Have you come up with a good motivator that goes beyond vanity? If so, please share in the Comments section below.