Five Secrets to Fat-Free Fun

Daily Health Solutions, Healthy Aging
on January 4, 2012
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Time and time again, I discover that insights come from the most unexpected places. A few weeks before New Year’s, as I was doing the usual pre-resolution stock-taking and contemplating, I heard a sound bite on the radio that stuck with me. Garrison Keillor of NPR’s A Prairie Home Companion was chatting up a musician before she launched into her next song. When asked what she’d been up to lately, she said, “Well, I’m not working much right now. I’m 42-and-a-half, and I’ve decided I need to enjoy life more.”

That little aside jolted me. In all my determination to make 2012 the very BEST year yet, I was thinking about doing, doing, doing. Enjoying? That’s not on the list. For me, it’s always all about being industrious, getting things done, righting wrongs. I’ve got to remind myself (or rely on a random radio show to do it for me) to seek out a little fun along the way.

This took me back to the time of my life when I was struggling to finally lose the weight for good. For me, food and fun were as much of a pair as peanut butter and jelly, Will and Grace, Ugly and Betty. I frankly couldn’t figure out how to enjoy myself without food as the focus. It was always about dinner and drinks, drinks and dinner, lunch, brunch, breakfast. And—as you no-doubt know—that’s a bit of a challenge when you’re trying to eat lighter and drink less.

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So, to inject a bit more fun into my life for 2012, I scrolled back to the tactics I used as a wannabe Former Fat Girl. Here goes:

Peruse your past. What did you LOVE to do as a kid, before you got all busy and serious and adult-like? Play in the woods? Do paint-by-number? Pretend you were a rock star, guitar and all? No one (except you, maybe) says you can’t do any and all of those things now. Use your childhood activities as clues to rediscover what it means to really enjoy yourself, in a no-cal way. Then, sign up for guitar lessons (or buy Rock Star for your Wii). Join a hiking group. Get the to the craft store. Sing in the church choir.

Mine your daydreams. I have always loved art of all kinds (looking at it, that is)—painting, sculpture, illustration—and would love to have even an ounce of the talent of some of the people I know. Oh, I can draw a mean frog, but unfortunately, EVERYTHING I draw looks like a frog—people, horses, flower bouquets. On a whim (and with the help of some intense peer pressure), I took a figure drawing class a few months ago. And, here’s the thing: My figures didn’t look like amphibians! Even more important, I discovered I loved the Zen-like concentration required by the class. I had to tune out and focus just on drawing, making the whole activity a kind of meditation. I am now determined to find an ongoing class, less because I think I’m some latent Michelangelo, but more to capture that feeling of focus and lightness. What have you always dreamed about doing? How can you take a step—even a small one—in that direction? There are plenty of community centers offering courses, colleges that will allow you to audit a class. And there are lots of other grown-ups like us looking for ways to grow in new directions, so I am sure you won’t be the only one in the group who remembers when pumping your own gas was illegal.

Find a buddy. It can be just as intimidating to try new things on your own as an adult as it was when you were a kid (maybe even more!). If you have a fitness or weight-loss buddy, chances are they’re going through the same thing, so enlist them in your search for fat-free fun. Even friends who don’t have weight issues would probably love to spice up their social lives.

Be a joiner. What? You’re not a joiner? Who says? You, that’s who. So you can change that, can’t you? You can act like a joiner, even if you’ve never been one before, and sign up for clubs and activities you think you might like to try. You are in the process of building a healthier life—it’s time to re-write the rules you’ve been living by.

Make it a game. Try picking one new thing to try a week—or a month. Brainstorm a list, look at local activities listings for ideas, and write options on slips of paper to put in a jar. Each week (or month, if we’re talking about learning a new skill versus a single activity), pick a slip from the hat (no peeking!)—and be sure to follow through.