Oldest Friend hired a professional photographer to document her birthday ball last month, and she’s spent this week posting the photos on her facebook account. I looked through them, happy to see so many of her having a good time, remembering what a good time I had, and honing a critical eye on the job the photographer did of capturing the evening. Luckily, I think he did a fantastic job, especially considering how dimly-lit everything was.
Unfortunately, I found virtually every photo I was in (and I was in a lot!) to be unflattering in the extreme. One of them actually made me wince when it popped up on my screen. I thought I’d looked good in the dress, in the heels, with my hair curled and my makeup done and my dead grandma gloves, but damn did I look terrible in that photo. It may very well be the most unattractive photo of me in existence.
I was chatting with Oldest Friend about it the other night, and chatting about my current gym habits and eating habits. I told her about the swearing off of chocolate at work, and about how much I’m working out these days (a lot, especially with the snowshoeing we’ve done on the weekends). I told her about how the only ways I seem to be able to lose weight are a) exercise compulsively and obsess about what I eat, which is what I did to lose weight for my high school reunion in 2006, and b) travel to another part of the world and spend a few weeks walking around (I lost probably 10 pounds in 3 weeks when we went to China, and even lost a few pounds when we were in Italy last January despite the weather).
Oldest Friend, being even more into fitness and health and exercise than I am, she of the Iron Man finish last August and multiple triathalons a year, she who posts daily about her 30 and 60 mile bike rides and her training runs as FB status updates, said to me that it’s possible I’m working out too hard.
(cue sound of record scratching)
Whuh? was my initial response.
Yeah, she told me. Some bodies are more likely to lose weight when doing long periods of low-intensity exercise, rather than shorter periods of high intensity exercise. Do you have a heart monitor? she asked.
Thinking about it though, it kind of makes sense. If I’m walking around for 5 or 7 hours a day, for a couple of weeks, I lose weight without even trying. I can eat whatever I feel like eating (and our eating habits in China weren’t great; lots of processed white flour stuff, lots of oil, and lots of sugar and not enough fresh veggies; because of the risk of hepatitis, all veggies we ate the whole trip were cooked), and I still lose weight. I’m not thinking about it, not trying to do anything except enjoy myself, and I lose weight. Every time.
I live in a world where I earn my keep by sitting on my butt for 8 hours a day in front of my computer. I don’t have time to walk for five hours every day. And what kind of exercise do I do in my daily life? Without fail, it’s usually high-intensity stuff because of the limited amount of time I have in a day to exercise. I walk to and from work, which is relatively low-intensity, but that’s only 15 minutes in each direction. I take the stairs at work sometimes. At the gym, I don’t feel like I’m doing much unless my heart rate is up – bike, treadmill, elliptical, strider, weights class, cardio/weights class, all of them get my heart rate up pretty high, according to the machine heart rate monitors. I live at a reasonably high altitude, and my heart rate is usually somewhere between 160 and 180 for the majority of the time I’m exercising. As soon as I’m finished, however, it goes back down to my resting rate in a very short period of time – which leads me to believe my cardiovascular fitness is excellent. (Also a good sign: I can do snowshoe hikes uphill for hours at very high altitudes.)(The corollary to this is that when we go down to sea level I have to work like crazy to get my heart rate above 140. It’s seriously difficult.)
But honestly, I don’t do a lot of low-intensity stuff. The pools around here are mostly outdoor (and therefore not open this time of year). I haven’t done much bike riding, again because of the season/weather. I don’t do a lot of weight lifting outside my classes because I feel like weights twice a week is enough since I’m not looking to bulk up any more. I haven’t been doing yoga anymore because every time I do it my neck hurts for days afterward. So what can I do?
I’m going to try some new classes at the gym, probably add a few pilates classes since the pilates instructor I like came back. I’m going to try some spin classes, where I can control the amount of difficulty. I’m going to cultivate the habit of walking for an hour or so after work now that it’s light so late into the evening. (YAY!) And this weekend, I’m going to buy a heart monitor, and I’m going to do what Oldest Friend suggested – spend a month doing only (or mostly, I’m not giving up my cardio weights class!) low-impact activity and see what that does to this body of mine.
This is what I looked like when I was 22. A friend of mine posted this photo for me today, and I’m glad he did, glad someone caught an image of what I looked like back then. I didn’t appreciate the body or the health I had then, and I probably don’t appreciate the body I have now as much as I should. But I’m glad that body was captured for posterity, and here it is for the world to see. I’ll probably never look that good again, but that’s OK, I’m not 22 anymore. (Also, I prefer being a c-cup to an a-cup). I do think I can look better than I did at the birthday ball, though.