DEAR FORMER FAT GIRL: You’re always telling people they need to exercise. But what about us working moms? With a full-time job, three kids and a house to run, how do I find the time? The only women I know who aren’t heavy either don’t work or don’t have kids. Must be nice. —Kathy
DEAR KATHY: I’m one of those working moms, too—and believe me, the fact that I’m fairly fit and lean at age 51 isn’t due to my great genetic makeup. I work at it, every day. That’s not to say I work OUT every day. But I find the time, sometimes sacrificing sleep, or lunches out, or an hour of TV to exercise most days of the week. I think we working moms (and moms in general) often prioritize other things over our health and wellbeing without knowing it. We get into habits—like watching Wheel of Fortune after dinner every night (when we could be taking a family walk)—that end up sucking time away from things that should be more important. It’s been helpful for me to periodically do this little exercise to “find” wasted time, even in my busy schedule, and be more intentional about how I spend the hours I have. Here’s how it works:
1. Take a planner, calendar or create a spreadsheet (whatever’s easiest for you) and map out how you spent your time over the last week. Be as detailed as you possibly can about your hours outside of work. For instance, instead of saying “housework,” say “dusted the living room, folded clothes.” Instead of saying “watched TV,” list the shows. Do that for each day of the week.
2. Highlight productive time in yellow. Productive time is time spent doing housework, helping kids with homework, taking care of other family members, shopping for necessities (vs. leisure shopping) and so on—anything you consider as part of your responsibilities.
3. Highlight enrichment time in blue. By that I mean time you spend reading, practicing a hobby, learning something new, exercising or being active—anything you find refreshing or fulfilling.
4. Highlight entertainment time in pink. Going to movies, watching TV, listening to music, eating out—all are considered entertainment time. If you were sitting, bored, in front of the TV, that doesn’t count.
5. Look for any blocks of time you didn’t highlight at all—that’s the no-brainer way to find time in your schedule. If you’re not doing something productive, enriching or entertaining, what else is there? Could you use this time to, say, exercise?
6. Look at the proportion of your time that’s highlighted yellow. There’s a good chance you have a whole lot of yellow on your spreadsheet for the last week, and very little non-highlighted areas. Women in general—and women with weight issues in particular—have a way of taking on an inordinate amount of responsibility, probably because it helps us feel loved when we believe we are so unlovable. To become a Former Fat Girl, you have to shift some of those tasks to other people. You have to ask for help. You may have to leave some tasks undone … or done less than perfectly. Start by asking your kids or husband (remember him?) for help with one task—maybe grocery shopping or laundry. Little by little, you’ll become more comfortable with sharing the responsibilities you’ve shouldered for so long. Oh, and you’ll start to find time for some of those things you’ve wanted to do for yourself, like that 30-minute treadmill walk.