The First Step, and It's a Big One

Until 2004 I had never known a single other woman who dieted and exercised to be healthy, rather than to be thin. Everyone I knew wanted to be single-digit sized, flat-stomached, but with curvy hips and breasts. In other words, we were all trying to be Barbie. I’m not sure why, since we all know Barbie is plastic.

Enter Morgan, whose friendship turned my thinking about diet and exercise (a.k.a Barbie-itis) into a completely different mindset. Morgan exercises because it makes her feel good (especially when she’s riding her bike. Uphill. Into the wind. But not when she’s sprawled on the pavement in a busy intersection.) She eats healthy food so that her blood sugar, heart rate, and cholesterol stay in healthy ranges, because she knows that those are the numbers that really matter, not necessarily the ones on the scale. Morgan thinks she would look silly thin, and she’s right. She looks fantastic just the size she is, which is low double-digits.

Imagine that. Eating to be healthy, exercising to be fit. Paying more attention to the numbers that reflect blood pressure, HDL, LDL, and heart rate than you do to the numbers on the scale or the tape measure. What an amazing concept!

Okay, maybe it’s not so unique. It’s obvious that we’re all built differently. Even if we all ate the same low cal, low carb, low everything diets, we’d still be shaped differently. That’s nature. I could eat nothing but green beans for ten years, and I’d still never have Cindy Crawford’s body. Instead, I’d have the bone density of fine porcelain and a host of diseases usually seen only in impoverished nations.

Choosing someone else’s weight and body shape as ideal is often what leads us down the road of dietary self-destruction. Choosing to chase a lower blood pressure, or a better heart rate may not lead us to thinness, but it will enable us to become healthier people. And the real kicker is that, usually, those pesky numbers on the scale will drop as we make healthier lifestyle choices. They may not drop as fast, or as far, as we’d like them to, but they do drop. While we wait, we have the assurance that we’re taking steps to build stronger, more energetic, healthier selves.

So, in case you were skimming, the main point here is that we’ll gain longer term success if we measure that success by considering all the numbers that indicate personal fitness, not just those on the scale or on the size label of our jeans.

Personal note: Six months ago, I took Lotrel 5/10 daily for high blood pressure. My resting heart rate was 92. Five months ago, after I’d lost 20 pounds, my doctor cut the dosage on my medication in half and will likely eliminate it totally next month when I go for a check up. Last month, my resting heart rate was recorded as 60. Coincidentally, I’ve lost about 60 pounds to date, which is nothing to sneeze at, but those b.p. and heart rate numbers are what make me proudest.