It’s hard to say exactly when my current “wellness project” started. It was probably the day I quit my full-time job in February. March is something of a blur, but in April I started going to Wake Up Yoga two to three mornings a week. Those morning classes are only $7 and even though my earning potential seemed unsteady and mysterious then, it was affordable enough that even I thought I could afford it.
My reasons for yoga were not well defined. I was feel emotionally burned out and mentally scattered. I knew from past times when I committed to going to yoga two times I week, it helped. I also knew it was good for building strength, “inner strength” and actual muscles. And finally, in past eras of working from home I would get desperately lonely and disconnected from the world. I knew if I was going to succeed I couldn’t let that happen. There are always nice people at a yoga class.
In June I started working on a story I’ve mentioned before that involved a lot of research on the topic of alcohol. I’ve written before, many times, about being a regular drinker and loving wine. And I’ve worried about it, too. Probably more than I’ve ever said. My father is an alcoholic and addict in recovery, after all. As a result of this work, I started to actually follow the guidelines for low-risk drinking, which, for women, advise no more than 7 drinks in a week or 3 drinks in any one day. Additionally, I decided to earmark at least two days each week as non-drinking days.
Right around this same time, inspired by this excellent piece on the subject, I decided to start going to acupuncture. I was having low-back issues and other concerns, plus I heard it was a very supportive therapy for people trying to quit or cut back on drinking. I’ve been going every Tuesday for the past six weeks, and people have asked me, “Is it working?”
The truth is I don’t know if it’s the acupuncture, but something is working. The combination of these three things–yoga twice a week, acupuncture once a week, and following the guidelines for low-risk drinking–is working. Over the past two weeks especially, I feel a sense of well-being and clarity that I don’t think I’ve had before. I don’t feel perfectly calm, but by my own high-strung standards, I’m pretty calm.
Another thing people have asked, having scaled back on the number of wine calories in my life so dramatically, is: are you losing weight? The answer to that questions is, disappointingly, no. I should add that at the outset of this I made a pact with myself that I would not turn this into a weight loss mission and that I would not restrict food in any way. During my alcohol research phase, I learned that, in women especially, hunger can prompt the urge to drink. So I’ve been eating whatever I want and plenty of it. Lucky for me, I happen to truly love a lot of healthy food so it’s not like I’m gaining weight either. I do feel stronger, less bloated, and perhaps a bit leaner. Maybe it’s just an increased feeling of self esteem that stems from the fact that curbing my drinking, something I’ve struggled to do for years, makes me feel so good about myself–actually proud.
And lately I find myself more eager to do new fun, fitness-related things to continue on this path to strength and health. I don’t really feel like rejoining a gym. I have a Fit Bit (if you do too, I would just love it if you added me there. I currently only have two fitbit friends to compete with!), and I’m trying to walk more. I also dug deep into my limited stores of courage to attend a dance workout class, at Philly Dance Fitness, wanting to merge breaking a sweat with having fun. After the session, I felt so happy and proud that I asked my friend to snap a photo of me with Besiana Konomi, our insanely tiny and talented instructor. It’s hardly a glamor shot, but I actually feel totally fine about how I look here. I don’t even know when the last time I saw a photo of myself that didn’t make me feel ashamed.
And, as I ramp up my fitness efforts, I know I need to remind myself that this probably won’t make me shed a bunch of weight either. I would be lying if I said I don’t hope it will, but weight loss isn’t the reason I want to do it. Feeling better, better about myself and actually physically better, is the reason I want to do it. The last thing I want is to get in a mindset where, seeing the scale refuse to budge, give up and pour myself another glass of wine or three because my efforts aren’t “paying off.”
Contrary to everything I’m so programed to believe, weight loss isn’t life’s ultimate payoff. But real well being, emotional and physical, just might be.