In the mid-90’s there was a TV show called Beakman’s World that ran Saturday mornings. It was like Mr. Wizard if the producers of that show were dropping acid and made one of Mr. Wizard’s co-stars dress up in a rat suit. I don’t think they ever said Beakman was a scientist, but he wore a lab coat, albeit a neon green lab coat, so it was heavily implied that he was scientific in some way even if his hair stuck up like Frankenstein’s bride.
Every week Beakman would answer science questions supposedly written in letters from kids around the world, though I always wondered if they came from kids around the crews’ familes’ dinner tables. He’d start each segment by reading one these letters like, “Kate from Los Angeles, California asks…” or “Jeff from Gooseneck, Minnesota wants to know…” Then they’d find some excuse to set off 100 mousetraps or set something on fire after telling us we should not try this at home without adult supervision.
I think I’ll emulate Beakman at the end of this way-too-long introduction, not so much with the pyromania but more with the question answering. Though if I could figure out a way to justify blowing up my toaster in the name of answering your nutrition questions, I would. I’m sure it would be a hit on YouTube. Instead, imagine me in a bright green lab coat with my hair a tad bit frizzier than it is normally saying to the camera, “Jen from LiveJournal wants to know, ‘ Do you remember what you used to do with your free time before you became so physically active? Do you miss what the old you used to do? Do you notice that exercise has taken up more time in your life or is it something that’s come naturally? Would you call it a hobby?'”
Thanks for writing, Jen! A couple months ago someone asked me what my hobbies were and my first reaction was, “Does healthy living count?” I do consider exercising and eating well a hobby, only it’s an emotionally manipulative hobby. It’s like the boyfriend who says, “If you leave me, I’m taking the Tori Amos CDs, the early stuff, not just her most recent crap.” I also consider crochet a hobby. However, if I decide not to crochet anything for months at a time, nothing bad happens. The only side effect is that I have a bag full of yarn in the corner that may become a choking hazard to my cat. No babies are going blanket-less and no children are sledding in the snow without ski caps sporting cute pom-poms on the end. My friends and family can acquire clothing without being on the receiving end of my D hook. However, if I quit eating my fruits and veggies and quit moving my ass, I will get fat again. PastaQueen no want to get fat again. PastaQueen like smaller booty! So exercise is a hobby, but a hobby I can’t get out of without undesirable side effects. Kind of like a cult, only I am not drinking any Kool-Aid. It has far too much sugar.
Back in January, I stated that one of the things no one told me about weight loss was that it would take time. I don’t just mean that it has taken me almost two and a half years to lose 190 pounds, I also mean that I spend between 30-60 minutes a day exercising and probably 30 minutes a day on average cooking. At first I really noticed this time suck, but now it just seems like a natural part of my day. I find it’s fun toying with it, finding the different ways I can get it done without wanting to stab my eyes out. I’ve been trying new exercises like my TurboKick class and my upcoming tennis lessons. I’ve been cooking strange vegetables and experimenting with new recipes. Oddly enough, when I put certain limitations upon what I am going to do, I find I can explore limitless creativity within those boundaries. I know I need to exercise, so now I can find thousands of different ways to get that done. Similarly, whenever I come here to blog, I know I need to cover the topics of weight loss, fitness, nutrition or obesity. Thinking up new ways to cover those topics leads me to some creative posts I wouldn’t have necessarily come up with if someone had just said, “Write whatever you want to.” Like, answering someone’s questions, perhaps. Sometimes rules and limitations can be freeing.
Before I ran around on nature trails and beat clumps of frozen vegetables against the counter, I think I mostly watched TV and surfed the Internet. So, no, I don’t miss what I was doing before. It’s not like the time I spent sautéing onions last evening was cutting into my refugee work in Uganda. I’m much more productive now that I probably ever have been in my life. Also, the healthier I became the more energy I got to do these productive things.
Some people scoff at the time I have to spend exercising and cooking, as though good health and fitness were something simply owed to me. Why shouldn’t I have to spend time working on my body? My body doesn’t owe me anything. I know that if I quit brushing my teeth and flossing I will get cavities. If I quit going to work, my boss is not going to keep paying me (though if he wants to that is totally cool by me). Many people want thinness handed to them on a plate, preferably with a handful of potato chips and dip included. But it’s something I have to work for. Some scientists even believe that I have to exercise longer and harder to burn as many calories as someone who has never been fat. I could be fatalistic and take this as an excuse not to exercise at all. Instead, I tell myself, “Well, that really sucks. I guess I’m going to have to run farther than everybody else.” Life isn’t fair. Oh, well. I suppose it makes it all that more impressive that I’m succeeding anyway. I had to work twice as hard for it as the other guy. I suppose if I’d been spending all this time on another hobby like building model ships, I could provide my local geese with an armada. But the duck navy is going to have to wait because I’ve been spending my time on my health hobby and I don’t regret it, though it would be awesome to see some urban fowl warfare. No more stale breadcrumbs or you’ll get a BB in your eye!
Jen also asked, “Do you get antsy? Is that part of what gets you running or taking the classes you do? Can you comment on your energy level?” I wouldn’t say I get antsy, however I don’t ever want to get bored. If I get bored, I’ll probably quit what I’m doing. If I quit what I’m doing, I’m going to get fat again, and I’ve already told you what I think about my booty size. Momentum and force of habit are some of my best friends, right after my friends who have corporeal form and are reading this blog. (Hey there, friends with bodies! You beat anthropomorphic concepts any day! Momentum never sent me a birthday card.) There are many days when I do Pilates or train with my weights simply because I looked at my calendar and saw that’s what I was supposed to do today. I didn’t particularly want to do it, but I’ve got this pattern going, so why break it? And when I bend my leg and place my foot on the bathroom counter to clip my toe nails, I recall how amazingly nimble all that ab work and cardio has made me. I don’t always like to exercise, but I like what exercise allows me to do. I’m so used to feeling good that it’s easy to forget how “blah” I used to feel all the time from the sugar and carbs and television hypnosis. But I did used to feel like crap all the time and I know if I stop doing what I’m doing I will start morphing back into that turd-like state again. I’m not so much antsy as I am eternally vigilant.
Hope that answers your questions, Jen. If this were Beakman’s World we’d end with the penguins saying something witty before they turned off the TV. You’ll have to settle for what my cat decides to type on the keyboard. Let ‘er rip, Krupke! M,m,mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm (I think Krupke wants some M&M’s.)