Change is Hard, Says Barbie

(Genetic freak or not, Viking Barbie is still my spirit animal. Badass with braids.)


Once upon a time, I imagined I was a patient person, but it really was just my imagination. I’m impulsive. I want things now, now, now. Particularly I want to be able to change my life, change my circumstances, change my appearance, or change my career to respond to any desire I might have. And there have been times when I’ve blown up my life on a moment’s notice because if something can’t be fixed right away, just having it be different makes me feel like I’ve done something.

But this health thing…This isn’t something that can be changed in a day or even month. Maybe not even in a year. It feels like a special kind of torture to keep up the dietary and exercise changes I’m making from day to day. Heck, from hour to hour. Sometimes minute to minute.

When you were twenty-five, or thirty-five, did you ever think about what your body would be like when you hit forty-five or fifty? I didn’t. Sure, my older friends warned me. My mother warned me. Metabolism slows, hormones run riot, half or all the moisture is mysteriously sucked from one’s body. The body…complains. Keep exercising they said. Once you put weight on, it’s a nightmare to lose it. Yes, yes, yes it’s all too true. (I’m one of the voices now, young ones!) But now that I think about it, does it really matter that I didn’t listen? Does it really matter that things are a little difficult now? Okay, a little difficult isn’t right–very difficult.

Self-discipline has never been one of my strong points. I truly admire people who are beautifully organized and goal-oriented. I want, want, want to be like them. But no matter how much I want to become that way, it’s not at all likely that my personality is going to make a dramatic, quick shift in that direction. Yes, I’m a hundred times less impulsive and more self-disciplined than I was even a decade ago, but I’ll never be Mary Poppins or Martha Stewart. We are the people we are, and when change comes, it comes slowly. If you’ve smoked cigarettes for two decades, you can quit cold turkey and call yourself a non-smoker the very next day. Yet that is really only a title change. Your body is still a smoker’s body. Your cravings are still a smoker’s cravings.  The battle has to be fought every day.

It’s the same thing to be a couch potato/exerciser. Or a person who maxes out credit cards/debt-free person. We didn’t get to be those unhappy things overnight, and we can’t change overnight.

A few weeks back, I did a Saturday link to a story on how people’s personalities change beyond recognition between adolescence and old age. “Only stability of mood and conscientiousness stayed the same throughout a lifetime and even then it was not guaranteed.” Isn’t that remarkable? The changes they found were made gradually, over many, many years. We are, indeed, programmed to be malleable, adaptive. I think that’s pretty astonishing, hopeful news.

Back to the health issue. I’m not in a terrible place, but I’m not in a great place, either. As far as weight goes, I’ve followed the rather predictable path of gaining a pound for each year that’s passed since I was twenty-five. That’s…that’s a lot of years, and a lot of stress to put on my body. But it’s also two kids, some heartache, good home cooking, and several bouts of depression and yearly SAD. Plus–ugh–menopause. In other words, Life. No, I didn’t listen to the women who told me to pay attention, because I didn’t want to believe it even as it was happening to me. My magical brain kept telling me it wouldn’t happen because I didn’t want it to.

Magical brains are wonderful things, but sometimes they fake your reality for you because reality can be painful.

It’s been a month since I reached what I’ll call “The Unacceptable Weight.” Even before then I had begun exercising more frequently. Beginning back in October, I started two months of rotator cuff rehab, and it wasn’t any fun at all to workout. (A month of weekly massages has done wonders, though.) But I ginned up with the New Year. I changed my diet a month ago: Very few carbs beyond fruit, the occasional potato, and brown rice. Soy-free dark chocolate. In fact, removing soy (on the advice of a friend) has been helpful because it keeps me away from food that’s been over-processed. My Fitness Pal has been a great app for tracking food.

The result after 30 days? I’ve averaged four-five workouts a week–yoga, treadmill, exercise bike, pilates, Kinect, stepper. My stamina is better. I’m stronger, but I’m working on being stronger still. I’ve only lost four pounds–less than the pound and a half a week I’ve set the app for. (Apps work the same for everyone, except for the part where each body responds differently.) Still, it feels so slow. Plus, because I’ve tracked my steps and weight for nearly four years, I can see how I’ve fought this same battle every spring. Only the baseline gets a little higher with each year. It’s hard not to tell myself that is will continue the same as it ever was.

If this were a Facebook shortcut status I’d have to say, “Feeling determined.” Determined to keep going. Determined to change. Determined to look forward. Determined not to look back.

Tell me about your challenges: the things that you’d like to change, that you’re determined to change, or determined to accept.


March 12th Words

Journal 0 words

Long fiction (edited 1 chapter)

Short fiction 0 words

Non-fiction 0 words

Blogging 956 words

Exercise: 20 minutes treadmill, 5 minutes stepper


*Sure, I know it seems intuitively wrong to have the doll with the idealized, impossible symbol of a woman’s body as the image featured on a blog dealing with body image and health. Particularly since I’m not making it an example of something we should reject. Just enjoy the irony–As a female Viking warrioress in a male-dominated society, she’s my symbol for determination.)


4 thoughts on “Change is Hard, Says Barbie”

  1. skyecaitlin says:

    I enjoyed reading this and I like your Viking Barbie, too. I think you are awesome and too hard on yourself. I have an idea, why don’t you keep a ‘special’ journal and list your achievements and accomplishments? You might be shocked, Laura! I see many.
    My challenges? I am trying to work out more and be less self-critical; this is hard for me with OCD and yet, it is part of my Lenten ‘fast’—giving up my self-negativity. BTW, you are an inspiration.

    1. Laura Benedict says:

      It sounds like you really understand the self-criticism thing, Skye. Thank you for your kindness. I hope your Lenten project goes very, very well. You should think about keeping a positivity journal, too!

  2. Karen Terry says:

    I am still dealing with the stroke and it is kind of hard to exercise. but I do try to walk everyday. It does help but I feel like it isn’t working. I think that is just me,but it helps my left side. The stroke has changed the way I eat and the foods I eat. I have lost weight and it feels good.

    1. skyecaitlin says:

      Karen Terry; just keep walking and there are also easy movements to coordinate and stimulate both sides of the brain.

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