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Pandemic sized

(Provided photo — Melinda Walton)

“Woo hoo, I am below average!” I laughed to a friend, as she informed me that the average pandemic weight gain was 29 pounds. Not much below average, sad to say, and it doesn’t really feel that funny. It’s daunting to think about tackling weight loss. Some friends are in the same boat, but we don’t much want to talk about it.

For me, working out with a buddy sometimes makes it easier to get back to fitness. To start off, I rejoined the gym a couple weeks ago. It was time. Past time actually. I had stopped going to the gym when everything shut down a year ago. My metaphorical, financial belt was tightened, but I was no longer wearing my actual uniform belt. My efforts to stay active, alone and “socially distanced” were not enough. What activity I did do — even last spring and summer, did not counter the easy availability of snacking, the allure of Netflix and the lack of a routine structure to the long stretches of days.

A year full of trials and tribulations with very little real social connection, and even fewer random everyday social interactions, has added up to a much more solitary, and sedentary, life. Oh sure, I tried to “make the most of it.” Like many others, I decluttered, organized, did projects — made a small side table, painted a room, refinished an old piece of furniture, painted another room, worked at … not my usual job. I wasn’t going anywhere. I wasn’t traveling. I just wasn’t moving around enough. It began to weigh on me … and that weight showed on the scale. Still does.

Concerns about when I would finally qualify to get a vaccine evaporated with an unexpected letter from the doctor’s office. I had a “qualifying condition.” It didn’t even say what it was, but I knew. I did the math. It was official: I had achieved pandemic size. My emotions were mixed about this new reality.

Although it looked and felt like spring was here early, and here to stay, I knew that wasn’t really the case. The option to exercise at the gym in any weather was definitely needed. The gym had been reopened for weeks before I mustered the gumption to rejoin. I couldn’t keep fooling myself that I’d lose 5 or 10 pounds first, so I wouldn’t look so out of shape when I saw some of the gym regulars again.

Fully vaccinated, I can now confidently go into the gym. Masked up, the sense of camaraderie is not the same. I used to savor going at slow times to just get my workout done, no idle chitchat. Now, though, I miss those brief exchanges. There is eye contact, but often we look away, no words exchanged.

Though winter has released its grip, the phases of spring weather still hamper outdoor plans. One day we can walk boot and jacket free with no mud; the next day it’s coats and boots again, looking for paved walks. I have had a few idyllic walks in that much too-short but oh-so-heavenly, season between mud and black flies.

Knowing that working out by itself was not going to be the best route back to fitness, I knew I also had to tackle my kitchen challenges. On the recommendation of a friend, I called and made an appointment with the free nutrition counselor at the hospital. I’ve had three meetings so far with my nutrition coach. Keeping a food diary had worked in years past, but I always did so reluctantly, and maybe not always honestly. I agreed to try again. The MyFitnessPal app makes it relatively easy, and I try to be honest. Yes, I ate a whole cup of jelly beans as a “snack,” more than once, a few weeks ago. Yes, I see that I do eat fruit, but not nearly enough vegetables. Knowing the coach has access to the food diary helps me make better choices. Incremental changes on the scale are finally happening, and are going in the right direction.

Now that True Spring, with daffodils, more sunshine and longer daylight hours, is here, I’ll be reaching out to friends for walks, hikes, and bike rides.

Soon enough, paddling the used kayak I optimistically bought last summer will also be an option. It was a great deal — kayaks were scarce, so it was a bit of an impulse, one I could barely afford. And to use the kayak at all immediately meant I needed to spend more money: a life jacket, a roof rack, ratchet straps. Looking back, I have to admit I seriously underestimated the weight and length of the kayak, while overestimating my strength. It was a real struggle getting it on and off my car solo. Entertaining to watch, I’m sure. Please, if you see me struggling gracelessly, feel free to laugh, but hopefully also offer a hand! Maybe we could paddle together; some companions would be enjoyable. Not sure which of my friends might be up for that — let me know! Perhaps, despite the pandemic, new friends will come along as we all venture back outside for fun and get back to our former, not pandemic sizes!

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