Catherine Ford Gets Personal

One year: A challenge for change


with 5 comments

Apparently there are Birthday Rules. Who knew? The rules are similar to those involved when one eats ice cream standing up (all the calories from sugar and fat fall right through) or breaks a cookie in half before eating (all the calories crumble and fall out.)

As pronounced by Arleen, my friend from high school who now lives in St. Catharine’s, Ont.: “All the calories you consume today do not count. Birthday Rules.” Her e-mail was all in capital letters, the equivalent of shouting, so I know she’s serious.

Good, because lunch was a bite of my husband’s Grandpa burger (who even knew A & W made Grandpa burgers for granddads?), three French fries, a bottle of water and one still-hot-from-the-Cookies-by-George-oven oatmeal and raisin cookie. No, I did not break it in half to reduce the calories. (See Birthday Rules.)

My favourite (guess why) nephew-by-marriage is the man behind Cookies by George. The birthday message he sent with the jumbo tin of assorted cookies said they were for sharing. Yeh, right. Like I’m sharing any of these with anyone or anything other than my deep freeze, where they will wait for the clarion call of my need for a cookie. Okay, so I’ll share with the kids next door because, well, they’re kids.

One of my fondest memories of childhood was going next door to Walter and Jane Campbell’s house where Mrs. Campell always had homemade cookies. (And yes, I called her Mrs. Campbell.) Fifty-five years later, I still remember, so naturally I’m sharing my birthday cookies with the kids next door. Maybe Jack and Sasha will one day have this kind of a wonderful memory, although I’m sure they understand I can’t make these myself. It’s the thought, right?

Another friend sent an e-mail with these birthday wishes: “I hope you get a special, big salad loaded with all kinds of healthy stuff for your birthday lunch. Just think, by next birthday you will be in great shape and feel fantastic.”

Which brings us to the first week of the Calgary Herald At-Home challenge. It has been well-meaning but ill-timed. Not for everyone, just for me.

So let me get the explanations and excuses out of the way first. My personal program started exactly one month ago, when the realization my 65th birthday was in one month — that would be today — and I wasn’t exactly prepared to be called a senior citizen. I doubt any of us are, even when we look in the mirror in the morning. My plan was — and still is — to spend the next year getting the 18-year-old who lives inside me and the 65-year-old on the outside to agree. If I can get fit enough to pretend I’m 45, I’ll be happy.

When the Calgary Herald Health Club started, just as I was forming this plan, I decided it would be a great idea to join in.

One week has passed and my daily food diaries are still blank and my fitness level still undetermined, although the husband and I are still spending Wednesday morning at fitness class. Yesterday’s class with Helen seemed better than usual. I didn’t poop out half way through some of the more fiendish lunges and squats. I even managed — almost — to keep up with what yoga calls a “tabletop” on an exercise ball, with my head on the ball, my feet flat on the mat and my back straight with nothing but air between me and the floor for support. It helps if one thinks of being roasted on a spit over an open fire and trying to stay just above the flames. I’m not sure Helen, who’s all about harmony and peace would approve of that mental image, but if it works, it works. Sometimes, so does thinking that each day in hell must consist of a million squats.

When the program started last week, on October 1, I was packing to go to Edmonton for the University of Alberta alumni weekend, known in younger and more casual circles as Party Time. The husband was going to his 50th year medical school reunion and I was tagging along, being — ahem — much younger than he.

By way of explanation and a nod to the theory of six degrees of separation, the year Ted graduated in medicine — 1959 — was the same year the wife of one of his classmates was my Grade 9 teacher. I remember her vividly for a single reason: She was the first, and is still the only person I know who could do push-ups on her fingertips. Fifty years later, I still can’t do push-ups, fingertips or otherwise.

This, of course, was one of the prerequisites for the at-home fitness assessment. “Count your push-ups,” said the instructions. I doubt whether zero is a number acceptable to the unseen trainers in charge of us at-home participants. The beginner level goes up to eight. The so-called elite level for push-ups by women is more than 50. (My personal guess is that any woman my age who can do more than 50 push-ups is unlikely to need much fitness “training.”)

My favourite is the one that tells me to stand up straight — “erect” was the word used — and then lie back down again. This time the word was “sprawl.” This was to be repeated until one minute had passed. “Count your sprawls.” I am presuming this exercise should not be done after a couple of stiff drinks, the hazard to body and surrounding furniture obvious.

Last weekend did start with a couple of stiff drinks, now that I’ve mentioned it, and went through appetizers, wine, dinner, more wine, more food, some sleep, breakfast, lunch, cocktails, reception — well, you get the idea. It ended with, what else? Food. This time, on the way back to Calgary at the A & W in Red Deer. I know, I know, I could have had a salad and coffee. Instead, I had a Papa burger, fries and milk. And yes, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Is this a reasonable excuse for not filling in a food journal? No, but it’s my excuse.

And just to make matters more difficult, today’s birthday is followed by Thanksgiving weekend with the Shout Family, more affectionately known as my immediate family. More drinking, more eating, more fun.

And, a little voice in my head says, more excuses? More reasons not to get on the program?

This week, and this week only, I have a simple plan: Moderation. Eat what I want and what I cook for Thanksgiving dinner. (If you cook it, you control it. Sweet potato casserole doesn’t need marshmallows and brown sugar; mashed potatoes don’t need butter and cream; vegetables don’t need oil and sauce.) Cookies are already in the freezer.

So I turn to Oxygen magazine only because my friend Jeanette gave it to me. (Otherwise, trust me, I wouldn’t pick it up. Leafing through this magazine, there is page after page of ads for so-called “fat burners”, weight-loss supplements, protein bars, and a myriad of lose-weight-fast gimmicks, all accompanied with photographs of amazing bodies — none needing to lose an ounce of weight. The inference is that all one has to do is take this powder or drink this potion and you, too, can look like that.)

I persisted to discover real information in the magazine and valuable tips. Jeanette had already helped by highlighting what she though was most important. I quote from the magazine in an article on how to stay on track. External forces aren’t enough; wanting to look good for someone else isn’t enough: “Although thinking externally may have some benefit, intrinsic motivation or exercising either because you find it interesting and enjoyable in itself or have internalized the value of good health, is more likely to keep you going . . .”

The one point Jeanette had underlined? “If you’re doing it for someone else, you need to write yourself a new script, where you set the course for your own success.”

Been there, done that. I just need to get through the weekend.

NEXT: Eating out, eating in and the dreaded buffet


Written by Catherine Ford

October 8, 2009 at 1:49 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

5 Responses

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  1. Does this mean that the peanut butter cheesecake and carrot cake will be missing from tomorrow’s party?


    October 8, 2009 at 2:46 pm

  2. […] Original post by Catherine Ford Gets Personal […]

  3. another great post!
    birthday wishes and happy thanksgiving

    i’ll see you on the wagon after the weekend is over!


    October 8, 2009 at 5:37 pm

  4. Delightfully revealing for all of us as we struggle to reconcile the inside youth with the outside reality. As another member of the Helen Mikuska fan club and Wednesday morning Ladies Lunges and Lifts, I go for the humor as much as for the exercise. If the latter doesn’t work the miracles I want it to, at least I have had fun doing it and laughter they do say does burn calories.


    October 8, 2009 at 7:13 pm

  5. OK. So I told my doctor that I wanted to lose a few pounds. His repsonse was that if I ate 200 calories a day less but continued to eat and drink the same foods and maintained the same exercise level, I would lose a pound a month. He said this is how he handled his own weight gain. No special diets, no personal trainers, the same alcohol intake say no to Yoga. You can do it Catherine.


    October 10, 2009 at 1:14 pm

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