My first winter on Paros I gained 18lbs. The summer that followed I managed to lose 8 of the 18 because I actually did some swimming and walked a lot. The second winter I packed on another 20 lbs. (in addition to the extra 10 I was already carrying) and the summer that followed I was only able to lose 5. I told myself that was better than nothing, but I was still a solid 25lbs over weight and in denial. The weight shift also aggravated old injuries and the pain in my low back, hip and knees began grinding away at my patience and my good humor. I hid the fact that I no longer had a waistline from myself and others by dressing like a rapper (without the weird hats and flashy bling) and hid any and all clothes that no longer fit – out of sight out of mind.
The third winter I was determined not to gain weight. I started taking a dance class twice a week, went for a brisk walk every evening with my husband, I was brimming with all of the best intentions. I started working in the garden with aspirations of planting tomatoes and spring onions. One fine Sunday afternoon I got over enthusiastic. I could finally see the progress in the garden so I pushed on for a particularly intense weeding session. About two hours after I had finished for the day and been seated in a chair sipping iced coffee and admiring the fruits of my efforts my body seized up from the waist down. I couldn’t get up out of the chair, I couldn’t move my legs without excruciating pain. I had triggered an old spinal injury – I would have to be flat on my back for two weeks, painful physical therapy, no dance class no bending and no lifting.
That was the last thing I needed. My nerves were in tatters, in fact it is amazing that my husband and children didn’t have me committed. You know things are bad when you find yourself watching re-runs of “Pimp My Ride”…
DIET is not a four letter word. Deep down I knew that if I wanted to be able to exercise I would have to change my eating habits to gradually reduce my weight first to avoid further injury. The problem is that eating right can be expensive. A couple of professional upsets had us financially strapped, that meant that the menu plan consisted mainly of dishes with pasta, rice or beans as the staple ingredient – lots of carbs, limited protein. Fresh fruit and vegetables had become nearly as expensive as meat. I only had about 5 minutes between each class (I taught from 2:30-11:00p.m.) so I would usually just nibble on crackers or chips between classes to tide me over. Then I’d eat two plates of pasta at 11:30p.m. I’d grade papers until 1:30 a.m. sipping wine, go to sleep for 5 fitful hours, then get up to get kids to school and to finish marking and preparing my material for that day’s lessons. I would stuff myself with carbs again at lunch and go to work.
I could have been the poster child for bad habits:
- My job entailed standing and sitting for hours at a time.
- I only ate two meals per day with nothing but empty calories and lots of coffee in between.
- The meals I ate were lacking vital nutrients, consumed too quickly, and the portions were huge.
- I was chronically sleep-deprived which makes you feel hungry all the time.
- My only exercise was house work at the weekend.
- I smoked between 2-3 packs of cigarettes per day, binge smoking because of course I couldn’t smoke while I was teaching.
That winter I gained another 20 lbs. and started having panic attacks which further increased my sleep deprivation. I was starting to spiral and I had abandoned all of my personal creative endeavors because I was too exhausted. Both my husband and I were at professional dead-ends because of the limitations such a small community offered. We talked it over and decided the only way out was to get out. They say that re-location is the third most traumatic life event after death in the family and amputation… but we were willing to face the trauma if it offered the opportunity to improve our quality of life!
Victoria Andre King is a freelance writer and audiovisual professional her novel The Führer Must Die is available for pre-orders and will be released on November 8th 2016 with Yucca Publications, an imprint of Sky Horse Publishing NYC.