Chicago, IL

How I Keep the Weight Off

Sherry McGuinn

Pandemic Pudge is no fun, but you can whip that baby into the ground.

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Before I get skewered by those who think that I’m “fat-shaming” or making light of the “body positive” movement, I’m not doing anything of the kind.

I am, in fact, a whole-hearted supporter of body positivity. It’s beautiful. But for me, I don’t want to have a fat ass, or a fat anything (except for a fat bottom line) and that is my prerogative. Because my belief is that maintaining a slender frame has more to do with being fit and healthy, than vanity. Even though, like most people, I like to look good and feel good in my own skin.

Confidence equals strength and vice versa.

So I’m here to tell you and only if you’re concerned about it, that a quarantined ass needn’t be a ginormous ass.

My goal is to lend a hand to those who are struggling both mentally and physically during this effed-up time. Not only are we dealing with depression in the here and now, but we’re also fearful of the future, and that is one hell of a double whammy. As a result, it’s become too easy to “let ourselves go.” Too easy to reason, “What the hell does it matter?”

But here’s the deal with that: Not caring for ourselves only makes us feel worse. And that’s a crappy vicious circle to be caught in. The worse we feel, the less we start to care. After that, it’s “bring on the Gorditas!”

Because I can’t lie to you, I’m going to share something: I am depressed every single day. Depressed and anxious. Merely getting out of bed in the morning is a feat of such magnitude that I have to mentally (and sometimes physically) stroke myself before I can do it. (Okay. That was an overshare.)

That’s why for me, exercise is crucial. I can’t live without it.

For the more seasoned among us, staying fit physically is a tougher proposition as it’s no surprise that as we age, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep the weight off. And now, as we’re “sheltering-in-place” and packing on pandemic poundage, it’s more of a challenge than ever. Throw depression into the mix and you have a recipe for blubber overload.

And I’ve been there. It’s too easy to open a cupboard and pull out a bag of M&Ms when we’re feeling shitty. Of course, every now and then we need to give ourselves a pass, but one too many passes make it even harder to stay the course.

So I thought I’d share my tips and tricks for maintaining what I believe is a healthy weight, especially for a woman in her 60s.

Allow me to shovel up the “bad” news first: You gotta move that ass, people. Without exercise, whether it be gentle or balls-out, you’re going to gain weight. I’m not saying you have to kill yourself, or pull hamstrings but guys, you need to break a sweat.

For many years, I thought I was exercising when in fact, my attempts were half-assed, no pun intended. It wasn’t until I started working out with hand weights that I began to see the changes in my body.

For the first time, I noticed definition in my arms and legs. The jiggly “bat wings” disappeared, as did the dreaded turkey wattle under the neck. And I still don’t have it!

Cardio is my thing, but if yoga or pilates is more appropriate for your body and headspace, I say go for it. Whatever gets you moving and keeps the demons from settling in.

As the news here in the States gets worse by the day, if I didn’t work out, or didn’t have my husband and cats to be accountable to, I think I’d throw myself into Lake Michigan.

Exercise helps me maintain a semblance of sanity and please believe me when I say it can help you, too. And you don’t have to live in a large space to get and stay, fit. Apartment dwellers need only turn on their TVs to find a wide range of workout videos available for all levels. You could do a different one every day without getting bored.

Although my gym has reopened, I don’t feel safe going back. I just can’t see it. For now, anyway. And as I have a stationary bike, treadmill, and hand weights, along with kettlebells and tons of workout DVDs, I think I’m good.

One thing I make certain to do and I hope you follow suit, and that is to get at least fifteen to twenty minutes of exercise first thing in the morning, before breakfast or even your first cup of Joe. It gets your blood pumping and, since your stomach is empty, you’ll burn fat. It also sets you up mentally, for the day. You’ll feel like you did something great for yourself. And you did!

When I get up, I have a glass of warm water with lemon, slug it down with my supplements and then I ride a quick five miles on the stationary bike. I watch whatever I’m currently binging on Netflix as I ride and the time flies.

I follow my “bike ride” with twenty pushups and then thirty tricep dips on a chair.

You can do whatever feels right for you, but again, I can’t stress enough the importance of moving your body after its long night’s fast. Even jumping jacks or leg lifts (while lying on your side) will get the job done. Or go for a walk outside and clear your head for the day ahead. In fact, if your knees are dicey, walking is a wonderful alternative to high-impact exercise. You don’t need to jump around like a lunatic to get and stay fit. And being outside will make you feel like less of a mole.

In the afternoon, after writing for a few hours, I work out with more intensity. That may seem obsessive but after sitting on my ass in front of my computer for a good part of the day, I need it.

But this is about you. Whatever works. Just move.

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Let’s talk about food. I’m not a nutritionist, but after having breast cancer, I’ve done my research and then some. By and large, I stick to vegetables and lean protein. If I could snap my fingers and give up chicken today, I would. But until that time, I eschew red meat and get the bulk of my protein from fish and poultry. Once in a while, I’ll add in whole grains like brown rice or quinoa because they’re delicious and loaded with fiber.

There is something that I fell into accidentally that really helps me and that’s intermittent fasting. No, I’m not starving myself. Nothing of the kind. This is what happened to get me to this point:

I love my morning coffee. There’s nothing like that first sip to help sweep the cobwebs from our dusty brains, no? My coffee isn’t just java and creamer though. I add stuff, and the stuff I add keeps me full and satisfied for hours.

You might think I’m crazy, but this is what I add to my French Roast: Collagen powder, protein powder, almond milk creamer along with plain almond milk, and also, a healthy sprinkling of cinnamon and a dash of cayenne pepper. You read that last one right. It adds a kick that I love. Too, cinnamon and cayenne are “thermogenic” in that they beef up your metabolism.

use a separate cup to froth everything up (you need to warm up the creamer/milk, first) and then I pour half the mixture into my coffee cup. Only then do I add the coffee. It sounds crazy but my concoction is creamy and delicious and due to the collagen and protein powder, I’m sated for hours. Of course, you don’t have to use both, but I’m an all or nothing kind of broad so I do.

In the afternoon, when I do get hungry, I nosh on hard-boiled eggs schmeared with hummus (fantastic), apples with peanut butter, pistachio nuts, or even air-popped popcorn.

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Another failure of mine: I don’t drink nearly enough water. I’m working on that but it’s hard. My water has to have some flavoring added for me to drink it. But at least I get it down.

And then there’s wine. Something else I’m working on. Enough said.

To recap: We can maintain a certain level of health and fitness during a time when our asses our stuck at home and we’re close to strangling ourselves or whatever loved ones we’re shut in with.

First thing after waking up, drink a glass of warm water with fresh lemon juice. It will rehydrate you and help to “clean out” the sludge.

Move your body for fifteen to twenty minutes to get the blood flowing and mentally prepare you for the day ahead.

Take advantage of the slew of free workouts available online and OnDemand if your cable provider offers it.

Try to stick to a diet rich in lean protein, vegetables, low-sugar fruits like berries and whole grains. Treat yourself when you need it, just know when to stop.

If you’re up for it, get some exercise later in the afternoon, especially if you spend a lot of time as I do, in front of your computer. Go for a walk outside, weather permitting.

If you’ve gained a few pandemic pounds, like most of us, don’t freak out. Hop back on the wagon and know that even excess sodium (I’m a salt freak) will cause the numbers on the scale to go up. To remain accountable, I suggest weighing yourself every other day.

Thanks for reading, guys. I hope you found this story helpful because it’s imperative that we take care of ourselves. We sure as hell can’t count on our politicos to do it.

Stay well.

© Sherry McGuinn, 2020. All Rights Reserved.

Sherry McGuinn is a slightly-twisted, longtime Chicago-area writer and award-winning screenwriter. Her work has appeared in The Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, and numerous other publications. Sherry’s manager is currently pitching her newest screenplay, a drama with dark, comedic overtones and inspired by a true story.

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