Friday, 11 April 2014

The Fittingness of Fitness

Last year someone wrote in asking how my fitness regime was going, and I did not reply because the wheels had fallen off my regime and I was wallowing in food and sloth. However, this year I have done a lot better, so I am happy to write about it.

We all know the physical dangers of eating disorders and the spiritual dangers of being obsessed with our looks. (My Calvinist great-grandmother told my mother that if she looked in the mirror long enough, she'd see the devil looking out. Calvinist grannies have a picturesque way of speaking.) However, there are also physical and spiritual dangers attached to wallowing in food and sloth. The Greeks have something like 109 fasting days, just for the sake of their souls.

There is no bar to the out-of-shape getting married, and indeed I have seen some big brides in my time. Some were objectively beautiful and arguably the plumpness was necessary to their beauty. Some were not, except insofar as that almost all brides are beautiful on their wedding day. Whatever the reason for you not to be married, it's not your looks, let alone your weight. You could have an eye in the middle of your forehead, and in the fullness of time Cyclops could come along and sweep you off to his cave.

Personally I think the secret to getting married sooner rather than later is to hang out where marriage-minded men hang out. This means where men who are serious about Christianity or Judaism or Islam--not just some vague sense of ethnicity, like CINOs--hang out. But I digress.

The secret to being attractive to nice men, I am utterly convinced, is being happy and confident. (The secret to being attractive to women of all kinds is to be confident and happy.) And good health does much to make you happy and confident. Good health here means good health for YOU. If you have some chronic health issue, good health means you at your healthiness. And we can achieve our maximum healthiness with proper stewardship of our brains and bodies.

Meanwhile, it is impossible--for me, at any rate--to get around the fact that Western Woman stares critically at herself in the mirror (hopefully not long enough for the devil to look out) and is either happy or sad about her objective appearance. Coco Chanel said that anyone over 20 who looks in the mirror to be pleased is a fool, but I certainly enjoyed observing that my Canadian Size 8 dress fits beautifully.

It fits beautifully because I have been dedicated to "the Fast Diet" since mid-January and lost ten pounds in ten weeks. (I didn't weigh myself in the first weeks because I couldn't bear to.) The diet's authors claim one should lose one to two pounds a week, which I found rather thrilling, and some weeks I do indeed lose two pounds, although other weeks only one or none.

Of course, this is slightly confused by the fact that I have taken up regular Pilates workouts since the end of January, thereby developing muscles (and muscle weighs more than fat), and have returned to running at the gym. This time, though, I have replaced my thirty minute jog with twenty minutes of intervals, as intervals are more efficient, and I discovered I needed something to really distract me from the awfulness of MTV. I need music to run or jog but half an hour of MTV is really too depressing. Anyway, loss of inches is probably a better measure than loss of pounds, and as I always lose my tape measure, I just try on dresses.

But the real benefit of my fitness regime was revealed on Tuesday, when I left the house rather late for my appointment with a beautician hired to fix my eyebrows. Between the Historical House and the bus stop is a rather long, somewhat winding path in the woods. Well, I was wearing sneakers (tennis shoes) and for the first time ever, I ran full-throttle down that path. And to my amazement, I could do it without pain or shortness of breath. I was at the stop in time to catch the nine-thirty, and was in the shop at nine-thirty-seven.

And it strikes me that this is what all this intermittent fasting and Pilates and running are REALLY for: my body doing what I want it to, and doing it well. Okay, yes I am happy to look slimmer.

I am never going to have an hourglass figure; in fact, only 8% of women have hourglass figures. Like 46% of women, I am rectangular. It is unfortunate for the 92% that the "ideal" female shape is the most unusual, the hourglass. On the other hand, I would rather dress like "Betty Draper" than "Joan Holloway." And, as I said, the whole point of having a trim body is to enjoy running around and getting to appointments on time. It helps make you feel happy and confident.

Update: Forgot to mention the sugar. I have fallen back into sugar-eating ways, but I will this minute get back on the no-added-sugar wagon. Sweet desserts only if served at others' dinner parties. This is pretty convincing. By the way, do any of my Polish readers have AUTHENTIC Polish cake recipes? British and Canadian cake recipes are too sweet for Polish palates, and I need some good recipes for Poles, not Polish recipes adjusted for an English-speaking sweet tooth.


Julia said...

"Coco Chanel said that anyone over 20 who looks in the mirror to be pleased is a fool..."

What an odd thing for Coco to say. I look far better now, post-20 (albeit not much post-20), than I did at 20 or before 20. And I don't think that's an unusual phenomenon either. I was, like so many others, quite an awkward-looking teenager.

Seraphic said...

It makes more sense if you read the rest of the quote. She says after 20 all a mirror can show you is what is wrong. Your real charm (e.g. how you are when not looking at a mirror) cannot be reflected by the mirror.

TRS said...

I've been cutting down on sugar as well. I did a 21 day sugar fast during lent, as well as the days leading up to thanksgiving. On thanksgiving, I went a bit nuts with candy, cookies, and soda... And crashed on the couch for two hours! Whew!

I believe now that sugar is the culprit ailing most Americans. I remember my first year of college, being my first experience meeting people of other cultures as I was raised in a remote, rural area... A kind young Asian man was in one of my classes and I found him to smell quite odd. Turns out, it was the garlic and spices from his cultural food, seeping through his pores ( I don't recall how I learned this, it was a long time ago) and he at some point explained that to him, Americans smelled sickeningly sweet, with all the sugar emminating from our pores!

Seraphic said...

Ah! A sugar fast. A very good idea. Personally, I will never drink soda ever again. I didn't much anyway, and thank heavens.

Leah said...

Well, I would rather smell too sweet than garlicky, lol!!

But it is SO true that sugar is a huge problem in the American diet. It's crazy how many things have loads of sugar in them, even things you wouldn't expect, like peanut butter. It makes cutting down on sugar frustrating.

Donalda said...

Surely this recipe for JP2's favourite cake fits the bill: Polish lady on Youtube learned it from her father, who was a pastry chef in Warsaw... any further questions? :)

Sheila said...

Alas, I am a rectangle too. Zero hips, zero chest. Ah well. Better than being a sphere, I suppose!

I've had the tremendous luck my whole life to have an absolutely rocketing metabolism. Now here I am almost 28 and my appetite is GONE. I used to put away a pile of food every meal and snack between, and now I don't always feel hungry for lunch. It's hard to change my habits to match my appetite, but I'm afraid if I don't I'll be an unhealthy weight before I notice .... since I am not a mirror- or scale-watcher.

I've cut down on the sugar a great deal; I no longer buy treats, but will only eat them if I make them from scratch. The trouble is when I bake a cake, or worse, go to a party, I find I have zero control. I think there's a part of me whispering "eat it now, it won't be there later" and I overeat. But, of course, since I'm out of the habit of eating sugar at all, it's made me quite ill twice now. Maybe that will cure me, ugh.

What awful stuff sugar is. People were much healthier before traders from the New World started showing up with sugar cane. Queen Elizabeth ate so much of it her teeth turned black! But in our modern age, it is terribly hard to avoid it, even if you make almost everything from scratch as I do. Every single social event, there are people offering you junk. I'm thankful I don't teach anymore -- schools are LOADED with cookies and treats and they always leave the stuff in the teachers' lounge after every class party. I used to be quite helpless before the donuts.

This is an embarrassing comment because it reveals my lack of self-control, but since I've read sugar is actually as addictive as cocaine, I figure I'll let it stand. It really is incredibly difficult to "just say no" when you're already addicted to the stuff.

Nzie said...

I don't know if Poles make it too, but there's a Russian cake called Sharlotka that is lovely but more European-level sweetness.

I have particular health concerns regarding sugar for my body but I'll be the black sheep & own that I love sweet treats and have no intention of giving them up (although I am trying to eat them judiciously, in limited amounts, and with protein). I do agree that many American foods are far too sweet; my dad had a French coworker who told him that even our breads were sweet. I stick to the high-fiber wheat stuff, because my ham sandwich really doesn't need any more sugar than the leavening for the yeast.

Sarah said...

For the first time in my life, I am quite comfortable with my body. My job requires a lot of physical labor, and so I shed a lot of weight simply by going to work every day. I can pretty much eat whatever I want and maintain my weight, though I do try to avoid sugar in general as it makes me feel sluggish. I eat a lot of frozen pizza, though. :/

I also go running when I have the urge to let off some steam. Yesterday was the first really beautiful day of spring, so I ran a few miles of a Rocky Mountain trail yesterday evening after work. Now that it is warm, I am hoping to go hiking a lot this summer.

I have an hourglass figure. In fact, I had a very difficult time finding a bra my size last time I was at the mall as my rib cage is apparently unusually small for my bust size. I also have a difficult time finding jeans that fit both my waist and my hips. So I consider it sort of over-rated.

I have flabby places, but I don't really mind them so much anymore. I have no idea what I actually weigh in numbers.

Overall I quite like my body and the fact that I like it and it is healthy and strong, to me, sort of makes everything else a moot point.

I agree with Julia. I am 22 and didn't start liking how I looked even a little bit until about a year ago.

Sarah said...

Oh, and Seraphic: I'm not sure if you're specifically looking for a Polish recipe, or just a recipe for cake that is not too sweet, but this is a recipe I got in Germany. We made it all the time there, and now my mom makes it fairly often for our family since I shared the recipe with her. The cake is delicious, but not very sweet, as Germans also don't like their desserts to be very sugary.

1 1/4 cup sugar
9 oz butter
5-6 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups flour
1 Tbs baking powder
cocoa powder
powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix the sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla together. Mix the baking powder and the flour together and add to liquid mixture (either by hand or with the hook attachment on the kitchen aid). The dough will be very stiff. Add milk until dough is moist and easy to work with, but not too thin.

Pour half the dough into a very well-buttered bundt pan. To the other half, add as much cocopowder as you want (about 2-3 Tbs is how much the German woman I got the recipe from uses) until it's chocolatey enough and pour it over the vanilla half.

Bake for 35-40 minutes and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Seraphic said...

Thank you!