“An Object At Rest…”


Here at a couple of months old I am already showing my preference for reclining in a hammock. As I near the end of my month of posts on diet and exercise, I have been pondering my resistance to exercise. Clearly as a child I was very active. In high school and college I did a great deal of walking in the course of my daily life. As a young mother I certainly was very active most of the time. Then middle age set in and I began to seek out opportunities to move as I have shown in my jogging, jumping, vaulting, swimming and Curve workouts. Today I go twice a week for a rigorous workout of weights and resistance exercises with a personal trainer.

But it has all seemed like work from that first necessity to “seek out opportunities to move.” Why has that been the case? I finally remembered Newton’s first law of physics. “A body at rest stays at rest.” It needs to be acted upon to move. As long as I had the need to move–to get somewhere for example–I got that body moving. But as soon as it was optional, as soon as I had to “make” myself move, the inertia proved stronger than the impetus to move.

All of this is very ironic since Newton’s also says that a body in motion will stay in motion unless acted on by an opposing force. My translation of this points out that once I start moving in the gym I find that I am actually enjoying myself and stop simply because I am exhausted. Somehow though I never hold onto that joy. The next time I imagine moving, I find that I prefer that my body “stays at rest.” It’s a paradox shared by many a non exerciser. Maybe we need a new law to explain it.

“Round and Around”


My last venture into trendy fitness programs came in early 2002 when I visited our local “Curves” franchise located near us. Curves was women only and based on a simple concept. Exercise equipment was spaced in a circle with a standing platform between each pair of exercise machines. Music played and you worked your way around the circle. Each station had a specific exercise and each standing platform was to allow you to step in place between the exercises. It reminded me of musical chairs except that there were enough places for each woman to work out. The whole routine took 30 minutes. By the end of that time you had worked all your major muscle groups and kept your heart rate in an aerobic level.

It was a lot of fun for a while, but then it became pretty boring. I suspect that was the reason that after an astonishing proliferation of Curves outlets across the United States, most of them went out of business after a few years. I only lasted a year at mine before I returned to walking and exercising at home. It had the advantage of being affordable, easy to learn and friendly. It was an safe way for me to move back into exercise. And it didn’t bother my knees!

If you are young, you probably wonder why I keep mentioning my knees. If you are older than forty, you already know.




“Kick It Up a Notch”

WORKOUT, (aka JANE FONDA'S ORIGINAL WORKOUT), Jane Fonda, 1982. ©Warner Home Video/courtesy Everett

Then came aerobics, here demonstrated by Jane Fonda. I remember this particular exercise well since it always seemed reminiscent of a male dog and a fire hydrant. Everyone I knew was trying aerobics with its pulsing music and, for the first time, exercise clothes. Leg warmers! I have no idea how anyone came up with the idea of wearing leg warmers to do aerobics, but they were a symbol that you took exercise SERIOUSLY.

After floor aerobics came step aerobics. Here you alternated stepping up and down on a little several inch high block. This new approach demanded that you buy a step, of course. Commercial firms were starting to see the market in exercise and were promoting “aids” that we needed to do aerobics. They hadn’t yet figure out that there were billions to be made in exercise clothing.

My knees were no more happy with step aerobics than they had been with jogging. In fact at forty I paid my first visit to a new specialty “sports medicine.” I learned that my knees didn’t track in a straight line thus causing me pain. I was given exercises and told that I would need to do them the rest of my life. Of course, once I stopped doing step aerobics my knees were fine and I quit doing them.

I never got involved with Jazzercise or Zumba, two aerobic fads that followed the Jane Fonda era. Nor did I ever take to Richard Simmons with his campy workouts. But tomorrow’s post details the next “thing” I tried.

“Jumping for Joy”


My next venture into exercise fads was the miniature trampoline. It had several advantages: it was inexpensive, it didn’t take up much room, it was fun and I could do it without needing a babysitter. I even bought a cassette tape with songs specifically timed to bounce to. One I will always associate with bouncing was “Bette Davis Eyes.” Why they chose this for the tape I’ll never know, but the beat was right.

I was impressed reading this ad for that little trampoline this morning. I had no idea of all the wonderful results it promised. I did it for fun and to let off steam. It worked for those two goals. I doubt that it came through with any of the other promises listed above. What amazes me forty years later is that I had the requisite balance to go up and down without falling out or over. Today I have to work to maintain my balance and would certainly hesitate to start bouncing on a mini trampoline.

I few years later I took a class at the YWCA(home of the pool and the fat jiggling machine) which included jumping on a full size trampoline. We also tried out vaulting over a horse(a piece of gymnastics equipment), walking on a balance beam, going across uneven parallel bars and standing on our heads. I amazed myself by enjoying it all, reminding me once again that I was still very fit in my 30’s.

And to think, all this took place without lycra or spandex! Without fancy workout gear a great time was still had by all.

“Run For Your Life”


In 1980 I joined the thousands of women in their thirties who decided to fight aging by jogging. There were no spandex running outfits, no special sports bras, no countless choices for shoes. While Nike had been invented by Phil Knight in Oregon, supposedly by using a waffle iron to figure out the sole of his new shoe, I bought a pair of Reeboks, as seen above.

Jogging was pretty self explanatory, so I didn’t need a trainer, a video or a gym. I just needed to put on my Reeboks and shorts(just cotton, not nylon) and leave the house. I simply ran slowly around the neighborhood. While the practice seemed pretty silly to me, I did it faithfully for some time.

After a while friend asked me to join her in a 5K run. I agreed without really thinking it through. That Saturday I joined hundreds of other women in a run around Portland. I was nearly the last woman to finish and met my friend who had arrived long before and had begun to worry about me. It proved to me that I was not a candidate for running events. That was my first and last.

Eventually jogging and my knees had a disagreement and I had to find another way to get some exercise. That’s when I took up swimming, a sport I had always enjoyed, which took me to the YWCA, home of the fat jiggling machine.

“Drinking My Lunch”


Lest you think that Nutrisystem Shakes are a new idea for weight loss, I share the 1965 version, Metrecal. It came in several chocolate flavors, each one more disgusting than the last. I had gained five pounds my freshman year in college, and I was determined to lose it over the following summer. So I packed a can of Metrecal for my lunch when I went to work.

I kept it cold in the refrigerator at work, so at least it wasn’t as terrible tasting as when it was warm. Still there was nothing to recommend it except the advertising promising me a leaner body. I fell for it, swallowing the stuff dutifully every day instead of having a wholesome lunch. I think that the amount of walking and swimming I did that summer produced better effects than the Metrecal, but I did try it.

Advertising still ropes people in promising terrific results from special food “delivered right to your door.” Any limited food intake, which is what any of the systems provide, is bound to lead to weight loss. However, none of the products teach a person how to eat normal food in appropriate sized servings. This ensures that most people will regain the weight they lost with those prepared meals. With any luck, assumes the companies, they will gain a repeat customer, determined that THIS time they will keep the weight off.

Metrecal cured me of any desire to use manufactured “food” to lose weight. Those advertisements have no effect on me and I never “rush to the phone right now” to get four extra “meals” for free.

“No Sweat?”


I have been haunted by the promises of this ad ever since I first saw it many years ago. It was touted as the “Space Age Slenderizer,” designed for the same audience that was being enticed to buy “Tang–The Drink of Astronauts.” Who wouldn’t want to lose 5 pounds in 15 minutes without doing a thing? Just walk around in this vinyl suit and the pounds will “melt away.” I love the idea of pounds melting away since we all know that fat melts when exposed to heat. Why wouldn’t this work? Sadly, of course, it is just water leaving your body as sweat from being encased in vinyl. But it must have been promising for many because the ads ran for years. In fact, it appears you can still buy one, now called a “sauna suit.”

Intriguingly enough, the opposite temperature  promises the same results. Now apparently we can go to a spa and have ice applied to us to “sculpt” away the fat.coolsculptingI have no idea is this works. The internet is full of before and after photos of this procedure and I admit I can’t discern any difference. But then I am a skeptic about any no effort plans for weight loss.

What I know for certain is that it is much easier to put fat on than to take it off!

“Shake It Off”


No this isn’t a picture of me using this low tech device, but it is an image of the fat jiggling machine that I used at the YWCA when I was in my 20’s. I thought it would be fun to start writing about all the gadgets, classes and advice I continued to hear about when considering exercise. I start with this machine, precursor to all sorts of fad inventions since then.

I went swimming at the Y, doing many laps for about one hour. When I was done, I would sit in the steam room or the sauna, not to lose weight but because they felt wonderful. But this machine was always calling to me, suggesting that it could help me achieve a more “toned” body. “Toning” was and continues to be a goal much touted in magazines. I think it means “no jiggling.”

You stood in front of this machine, wrapped the belt around your “trouble spot” and turned it on. The belt vibrated, making your “trouble spot” jiggle. Yes, counter intuitively, this jiggling was supposed to eliminate jiggling. The machine was extremely successful. But the success was in shaking loose money from the YWCA, not in jiggling off fat!

“Say What?”


As if in response to my question about different scientific advice about diet, the New York Times science section this morning featured the headline “Are Eggs Bad for You? Maybe.” While a new study seems to suggest that increased egg intake produces additional cholesterol which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, the article was full of cautions. For example it says “the study findings are observational and cannot establish cause and effect.” Well that isn’t very helpful! To confuse matters further the study author states,”We don’t want people to walk away thinking they shouldn’t eat any eggs. That’s not the right message.” By the end of this article I had no idea what the right message should be.

If you have been alive for more than a few decades, you have lived through countless contradictory advice statements. First no fat is best. Then full fat is healthy. Then no meat. Then some meat. Then no salt. Then some salt. If I had kept track of all the suggestions I have read over the years it would begin to resemble Ripley’s “Believe it Or Not.”

So I go back to my life long habit of eating lots of fruits and vegetables because I like them. I avoid alcohol because it makes me sad. I limit sugar because it gives me lows after short highs. I eat lots of whole grains because I like to chew. I broil fish because I don’t like greasy fried food. I call it my “I eat to nourish myself with things I like to eat” diet. Do you think I could market it as the latest fad?

“Allergic to Advice”


Food allergies are serious business. Some of them can actually kill. One of our favorite pastors died from eating something with peanuts in it which produced anaphylactic shock. My daughter’ father had a frightening reaction to fried rice which had some shrimp mixed in and I had to take him to the hospital for treatment. My daughter had hives break out from a tiny bit of shrimp, so we know she inherited the allergy.

But the medical community came up with advice for new parents about twenty years ago, cautioning them to delay introducing foods which commonly caused allergic reactions including peanuts and eggs. They maintained that waiting would reduce allergic reactions in children.

Today the pediatric community took back their advice. It turns out that postponing introducing these foods actually INCREASED the number of peanut allergies in children rather than decreasing them. Apparently having a variety of foods after four months actually gets babies’ digestive systems used to them instead of producing an allergic reaction.

At the same time doctors are telling us that all our cleaning and sanitizing has made things worse for people. Dirt actually helps kids get immunity to germs rather than giving them germs. Even the five second rule(if it is on the floor less than five seconds you can eat it)turns out to be true.

I have learned to take most food advice with more than a grain of salt(including watching my salt!) Has anyone else found advice contradicting earlier advice?