‘Fitness hell’ isn’t so bad when you don’t go through it alone

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(WomensFitnessFocus.com) I have to admit it: My life has become fitness hell. But honestly, it’s not that bad. Here’s the story.

Recently my spouse started reading every health and fitness magazine he could get his hands on, cover to cover. Good grief, he even reads the ads.

It started innocently enough. At the age of 38 my spouse has reached the age where any extra morsel magically metamorphoses into ye olde spare tire. For some reason I assumed he wouldn’t be sensitive about a little good natured joshing in regards to ‘more of him to love’ – as opposed to his help mate, who couldn’t bear to admit that she was starting to buy her pantyhose one size larger and took the petite size from the grocer’s shelf only when he was looking. Surprisingly, he was just as vulnerable to my mention of his ‘love handles’ – the difference is that he didn’t burst into tears.

He decided that changing our eating habits and starting an exercise program was what we needed. I didn’t see any point in changing our dietary patterns. After all, we ate plenty of fish and skinless chicken (well, I ate the skin). We steamed our vegetables and ate butter substitute on our potatoes. What’s there to change? And as for physical exertion – wasn’t my desk job bad enough?

My idea of working out was to wear chic, comfy elasticized sweat gear and gossip with my girl friends in the darkened corner of an aerobics class. My husband thought differently.

Right away he started buying fresh vegetables, salads and fruit for his lunches. He stopped drinking any form of caffeine, boasting, ‘I drink nothing but water and wine,’ the ratio of water far outweighing the wine. He drinks a minimum of 120 ounces of water compared to his 4 ounces of wine with dinner. Dinner didn’t change too drastically. We still grilled our fish and fowl and treated our vegetables with Lilliputian amounts of boiling water.

No More Pizza for Breakfast

Breakfast underwent major surgery… gone are the days of having cold pizza and soda or a processed, packaged burrito for breakfast. If I even look at something that contains mayonnaise I’m subject to a punishment worse than death – espousal guilt. Gads. You don’t even want to know the penalty for sodium.

Our body boot camp began just as swiftly as the sustenance rations. We started lifting weights three nights a week. My appendages ached so badly the first week, I couldn’t believe that someone I loved was asking me to willingly inflict pain on my cute, rather Rubensesque body. This was his idea of fun?

They say you don’t really know people until you’ve lived with them. Ha. You really discover their dark, sinister side when you work out with them. The gnashing of teeth, the Eddie Murphy language, the growls… this just during the consumption of the protein drinks and vitamins. But the clanging of weights and machinery really does something for one’s relationship – drowns out the nagging ‘Cmon, honey… one more set… good for the old rump roast. Yeah, maybe you should cut back on the brewskies and watch football from an exercise bike. Carb out, drop the fatty foods and empty calories…’ Ho hum, I can ignore those muffled suggestions.

At first I thought I was safe. Big deal, go to the gym with him a few nights a week. Humor him. Eat the healthy breakfast and hearty supper. I still had anywhere from 9 – 10 hours by myself during the day to do whatever my body dictated. I didn’t have to sacrifice the chill fries and cold, frosty (lite) beer at lunch, did I?

The Eye of the Beholder

Well, my viewpoint began to change when I first saw his body change. About three months into this fitness fixation I noticed my husband’s physique – for as long as I could remember he had a body, a frame, something to house his bones and intestines. Now, standing before me was a man with a physique, a bod. My spouse was a hunk. I looked in the mirror and saw a ruddy version of that legendary Doughboy. Uh-oh.

My beefcake bridegroom could not understand my frustration – if I was eating exactly the way he was and doing the same amount of exercise, why wasn’t I transforming also? Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we slip chocolate chip cookies up our sleeve. You’d be amazed at what you can consume unconsciously while developing your ‘secretarial spread’. My office was a nutritionist’s nightmare. A breeding ground for adipose tissue.

In the back of my mind I was determined not to lose my honey bunny puddy bear to some hard bodies muscle queen. I had conjured up all kinds of wild hallucinations that had him running off with some tall, scrawny, blond, pop tart aerobics instructor while I turned into a mere bulbous, globular amoeba in his life.

With that vision in my head the locomotion of junk food and trash that I was devouring came to a screeching halt. I learned to like fruit and vegetables. I started drinking so much water that I stopped retaining the stuff – always a big problem in the past. My ample, mean, fighting machine was going to get clean. During the first week concentrating on my intake of complex carbs (and increasing my H2O) I noticed that I didn’t want to snack as much as before. Then I could focus more sharply on eliminating the unnecessary lard, tallow and suet from my diet (ignoring the internal debate that chocolate must somehow be a necessary fat). I discovered healthy alternatives: olive oil, avocados, etc. This was going to be my fun. My husband and I became culinary wizards with our new found foods.

The release of athletic endorphins came much slower. I just couldn’t get hyped about this gym business. I hated it in high school and I was sure I’d hate it as a grown woman (especially since I’d grown by 10 years and 15 pounds). Surely I would lose all dignity and grace by becoming a sweaty, red faced Harpy in front of my husband.

On the contrary, I’ve begun to smile at the pain and tolerate the sweat, and he finds it all quite delightful. I’m starting to enjoy his compliments about my ‘definition and symmetry’ and appreciate it when he’s concerned about my fiber intake. I’m grateful for his vocal support during my forced reps and ungodly burns.

I’ve lost 6 pounds in five weeks and I can fit into my tight jeans again. I can hardly wait until our vacation. What dashing figures we’ll cut on the beach or at our friends’ pool parties. I guess there’s something to be said for this ‘Togetherness Training’. It has enhanced our bodies and brought a whole new dimension of sharing and caring into our relationship. W have more energy, we feel stronger and more balanced. We are appreciative of our own and each other’s bodies. I find that I’m beginning to look forward to our workouts and the time together when we discuss and plan our meals. This is fun.

They used to tell me, ‘You’ll have to go through hell before you get to heaven.’ Well, I’m here to tell you, it isn’t such a bad trip.

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