Sunday, January 3, 2010

Ten in 10: Making Changes for the Better

Ten in 10 Logo - Courtesy of RecipeGirl.com

The Ten in 10 Challenge kicked off yesterday and, while I'm excited to start making the necessary changes in my life that will help me achieve my goal, I'm nervous at the same time. After looking at the list of participants and reading through their respective goals, I discovered that I'm among the relatively small number of people whose goal is to gain weight over the course of the Challenge. A recent discussion with my doctor made me realize that I am underweight, despite being petite. There's nothing urgent about my situation, but my weight is not something I want to mess around with. Given my current eating habits, active lifestyle, and naturally high metabolism, I know that seeing any true lasting changes with regard to my weight is more than likely going to take longer than ten weeks.

In my attempt to draft a plan of action for the Ten in 10 Challenge, I've made a list of the reasons why I think it's hard for me to gain weight (and keep it on) and some preliminary steps I want to make to make it easier for me to succeed in this Challenge.
  • It's a matter of money. - I only recently returned to work after being unemployed for four months, so I have been operating on a very strict budget, cutting back on a lot of expenses that I deemed "unnecessary" or "extravagant." This habit of keeping an eye on the bottom line is nothing new for me since I developed my heightened sensitivity to money when I was in graduate school. Unfortunately, the cutting back resulted in too many meals that were unbalanced or were simply non-existent. I ate the absolute minimum to keep functioning in order to make my food resources stretch as far as possible, thereby reducing the number of trips I'd have to make to the market to restock my kitchen. When the cupboard was bare, I'd often skip a meal altogether to avoid the expense of ordering food for delivery or the temptation of buying cheap empty calories at the nearest fast food restaurant, arguing that I'd make up for the missed meal the next time. This has to stop. Once I get my first paycheck, I want to ensure that my pantry is well-stocked with the essentials and that I have wholesome snacks on hand, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables in my refrigerator.

  • It's a matter of lifestyle. - I do not live a sedentary life. I'm always moving and very rarely allow myself any time to slow down. This was especially true when I started training for my first half marathon. While remaining active and keeping a regular exercise schedule was good for me, I was hurting myself by not compensating for the extra calories I was burning while training. If you combine that with the financial situation I was in, I was doing more harm than good. As I continue running (once it gets a little warmer out there) and continue living my life on the go, I must physically stop what I'm doing and take the time to eat and I must be more mindful of the number of calories that I'm eating. I was burning more calories than I was consuming, so it's any wonder that I've lost weight over the past several months. In addition to running, I want to get myself back to the gym (when I can afford it) and develop a resistance training plan to help build/gain muscle.

  • It's a matter of genetics. - I was blessed with a naturally high metabolism. Ordinarily, this would not be viewed as a problem, but given the issues I outlined above, it's a big problem for me. Even though I'm a "grazer" who picks on food throughout the day rather than relies on "three square meals," I still need to make the smaller meals I do eat more balanced. I want to integrate more omega-3 fatty acids into my diet, as well as more lean proteins and more whole grains.
The idea of gaining weight on purpose has come across as "completely insane" to some people, and even before I officially agreed to join the other participants in the Ten in 10 Challenge, I received negative feedback about my goal. People who've known me for years have made sarcastic comments about how "hard it must be to be skinny," dismissing the issue as if I have nothing to worry about. But being underweight can increase a my risk of dying from diseases such as heart failure and cancer. As a woman, if I continue to remain underweight, I may be putting myself at risk to develop osteoporosis or bone fractures later in life. I may not have anything immediate or pressing "to worry about" right now, but I don't want to put myself in a position where I'll have to worry in the future. Especially if there's something I can do to lower my risks NOW.

For me, the Ten in 10 Challenge is not going to end at the end of ten weeks. I'm going to be using this time to take the necessary steps to set myself on a path for healthier living. Although the Challenge started yesterday and most participants will likely be writing about their progress every Saturday, I will be writing every Sunday, the "quietest" day of my week, so I can devote the appropriate amount of time, thought, and energy to these posts. It's my hope that I'll be able to gain valuable advice toward achieving my goal, to offer support to those who may be in a similar situation, and to help others understand that being underweight/skinny/thin can carry its own set of problems.

If you're interested in joining us, it's not too late! Details about the Ten in 10 Challenge can be found here.

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