Something to Obsess About During the Pandemic

My body has ways of making it clear when it hasn’t properly been tended to for far too long — when the excess weight is more than just an inconvenience or annoyance. It did so during the early spring of 2011, and the health problems that surfaced in turn motivated me to drop 60 pounds. For most of the time since then, the desire to prevent those issues from happening again drove me to take significantly better care of myself than I ever had. 

But, like many people, I put on weight during the pandemic. Fortunately, that meant a small increase of between five and 10 pounds. However, that’s only because when the pandemic started my weight was already at its highest in over nine years. Without getting into the details, a few years ago a couple high-stress, chronic situations resulted in my employing the coping tactic that soothes me best: stress eating. Not that I want stress in my life, but it would be awesome if it resulted in the pounds shedding off rather than stacking up on each other as easily as LEGO Duplo bricks. Thank to this, when the pandemic started my weight was already the highest it had been since 2011.

A common sentiment going around these days is that you shouldn’t beat yourself up for weight gain during such a stressful time — it’s more important that you maintain your mental health stability. Without question, I subscribed to it. By the start of this month, my weight was hovering roughly 10 pounds below my all-time peak. Then, on what should have been one of the best days since the start of the pandemic, my body decided to emphatically inform me that it was time to stop making excuses.

To be fair, it did send me a warning notice last month, when I experienced the worst hive attack I’ve had in years. At that time, Occam’s Razor provided the simplest explanation for my body freaking out: the months of cumulative stress brought about by living during a pandemic and mindfully trying to do all the right things (other than eating) finally became too much. Unfortunately, the simplicity of that explanation provided on easy excuse for me to ignore my physical fitness.

That purposeful lack of self-awareness came to a halt on Saturday, October 10, 2020. It should have been one of the best days of the year. It was my first day back in Philly since the pandemic started, Sally and Brandon were both there, I was seeing my dad for the first time since January, and the weather was exactly the kind we needed to safely spend most of our time in the city outdoors. When we did go into a few select shops, we felt relatively safe given that everyone was wearing masks, social distancing was readily evident, hand sanitizer was in ready supply, and the number of customers in them was actively being controlled.

Actually, it was the best day I’ve experienced since the pandemic started, but enjoyment of it was notably tempered by the fact that my sciatica announced its presence with authority throughout the day. The thing is that it’s only a problem when I’m grossly overweight and spending a significant amount of time on my feet — especially if most of that time is standing still or walking very slowly. To make matters worse, grabbing a table somewhere we could sit for a while and have a snack and beverage — the thing that would have best helped to alleviate the problem — simply wasn’t an option. Although we were able to settle on some solutions that eased some of the pain, such as simply sitting down for a half hour or so in the park immediately next to Christ Church in Old City, it didn’t lessen my overall frustration with simply having to deal with it.

That frustration and annoyance did not subside after returning home or during the following day. The more I thought about how the sciatica affected my day, the greater the frustration I felt about myself. So, much like the health problems back in 2011, that day in Philly is now motivating me to lose weight all the excess weight yet again. Using all the techniques that have worked in the past has already yielded results: I’m now down nearly 10 pounds in just 2½ weeks. Of course, knowing the holiday season is nearly here makes me question the wisdom of starting this endeavor at this time, but I also know to take full advantage of this kind of motivation.

So, I’m now obsessing about calories (both the quantity and kind of), getting enough exercise, and getting on the scale every morning. With some luck, the holidays won’t present too much of an obstacle. Hopefully, the next time I’m in Philly, the sciatica won’t flare up at all.

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