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The One About the Gym.

UUUUUUUGGGGGGHHHHH the one about the gym.

Dude, I wanted to start this post with a story about how hard it’s been to regain traction with losing the baby weight and then end with a BAM I NO LONGER WANT TO BURN MY SHAPEWEAR IN A BONFIRE.  But no.  That is sadly not the case.

The road to my last pregnancy was paved with fertility drugs, miscarriage, depression, and other terrible crap.  Ends eventually justified the means and I was beyond grateful to find out I was pregnant after such a journey.  (The little Guy is my favorite guy.)  My son was born eight months ago and he is exactly who we had been waiting for.

Table all the parental happies for a minute, though, because this post is not about infertility.  Or the little Guy.  It’s about the tarnish that’s settled onto the word “just” in the sentence, “I’ve just had a baby.”

No.  I did not just have a baby.  I had a baby eight months ago.  And I still feel like I’m trapped in the postpartum schlubby chub club.

So I joined a gym.

I used to go to the gym a lot.  It was kind of a family thing and while I never sculpted a physique that would stop traffic (unless a vehicle actually hit me), I was stronger and healthier and slimmer than I am now.  I didn’t feel ashamed of my shape and I wasn’t avoiding my closet in favor of athleisure wear.

Oh yeah.  “Doing absolutely nothing in my active wear” has been a theme these last eight months.

Postpartum anxiety didn’t help (better now, though) and neither did the c-section recovery.  I didn’t feel great after my first c-section and, despite rumors I’d heard that the second one is easier, I did not find that to be true.  Add in some wrist and hand issues (I ended up with breastfeeding injuries, which feels silly as eff to type but is actually a thing) and my body felt like something I was renting out instead of taking ownership of.

That did not feel good.  I want change.  Can’t wait around for change, though.  Have to chase change.  Change is exhausting.  So is this paragraph.

So about a month ago, I joined a gym.  It wasn’t a cheap decision, but the gym feels low pressure, has great hours, and also provides childcare for small baby people, so I have no excuse NOT to go.  Also, something about paying for it makes me less likely to NOT go because I hate throwing money away.  So I’ve been going.  Despite feeling shy (is exercise timidity a thing?) and despite feeling flumpy, I’ve been going.  I use the treadmill and the free weights and I’m debating a class or two if I can find some glasses and a fake mustache to wear while participating.  I’m trying not to weigh myself but instead using a particular pair of pants as my barometer for progress.

I hope to see some progress soon but I’m trying to find small victories in the steadier blood sugars and increase of energy.  And also in the “hey, I left my house and didn’t spend the entire day juggling kid requirements only.”

Hopefully, in time, I’ll schedule my shapewear bonfire, but in the meantime, I’ll try and find some pride in taking small steps now.  Especially wearing these mad cool glasses and this fake mustache.

That Low, Though.

The low blood sugar hadn’t rooted firmly enough in my brain yet, but I knew something was wrong.  My feet were heavy against the treadmill belt, and I kept rewinding the show I was watching because the dialog wasn’t making much sense to me.

BEEEEP!  BEEEEP!  BEEEEEEEP! hollered my phone (aka surrogate Dexcom receiver) from the cupholder of the treadmill.

57 mg/dL with the pigeon head facing south.

Dexcom G5. Looks like a cute little pigeon who wants a hotdog until you realize, "Fuck – I'm really low." #diabetes

A photo posted by Kerri Sparling (@sixuntilme) on

“Oh hey,” I said, all casual, while my brain was throwing itself against the inside of my skull, shouting “That low, though!  Go get something to eaaaaaaaaat!”

Instead, I felt compelled to wait until the treadmill had reached an even number of minutes left (WHY?? This sort of compulsion happens regularly.) before I would head upstairs to grab a snack.

Upstairs, I walked through the living room into the kitchen, passing Chris, who asked, “You okay?” and I responded with a grunted, “Low.”

Reaching the fridge, I opened it up and grabbed the first thing I saw:  an already-opened juice box.  The straw was at the ready, making my fumbling fingers flex with relief.  Slightly dizzy and with the low blood sugar almost fully acknowledged by my mind, I drained what was left of the juice box.

Trouble is, the juice box had apparently been left in the desert to ferment and was then tucked back into the fridge.  The fizzy, nasty grape taste in my mouth woke my brain up completely, only urging me to throw up instead of deal with the hypo.  I ambled over to the sink and stood there, holding the edge of it, the breaking news ticker in my brain reading “DON’T PUKE DON’T PUKE.”

I didn’t puke.  

I chased the fermented juice box with some raisins.  I returned to my work out. I wondered briefly if I was somewhat drunk. This isn’t the first time this has happened, and it sure as hell won’t be the last.

Accountability.

We have a newly-minted kiddo.  That’s an established fact.  He is cleaned, fed, and loved all day long.

Here’s the problem:  I’m not cleaned, fed, or loved all day long.  It’s embarrassing to admit that, but it’s the truth.  I’m struggling hard with self-care.  And I also kind of buck up against even the admission of struggling with self-care, because parents in general are sometimes tsk, tsk‘d for putting their needs on the to do list at all.

But that oxygen mask metaphor that I used back when Birdy was born?  Applies to the little Guy, too.  I can’t take care of him, or her, or anyone if I’m off my own game.

Maybe I’m not off my game so much as I need to change the game.  Gone are the days of plotting and spreadsheeting fertility goals, and with them went the fastidious monitoring of blood sugars and doctor’s appointments.  It’s okay to loosen the reins a bit there, but I need to keep up some semblance of diabetes management.  Checking blood sugars?  On it.  Using the features of my insulin pump to my advantage, like inputting my blood sugar and carb intake and letting it calculate my insulin needs?  On it.  Keeping my CGM graph top of mind instead of succumbing to alarm fatigue?  I can do that, too.

But oh the exercise and food thing is a frigging quest.  Uphill.  In the snow.  With that Sisyphus ball thing.

I thrive when held accountable, and I need accountability in order to reignite some healthier habits.  There was a short discussion about this on Facebook last week, which led to the creation of a small Accountabilibetes group, where we’re trying to help one another stick with some kind of exercise program, and that camaraderie has been a big boost.  Even though the weather has been fuck all cold (snowed last night), I’ve been back on the treadmill the last few days, easing in with some interval training that’s heavy on the incline and gentler on the speed for now.  (I’ve started watching The West Wing, which I’ve never, ever seen even an episode of before.  Now I have seven seasons of Sorkin-saturated dialog to work through.  Should keep me entertained throughout the winter treadmill months.)  A fully-charged Fitbit helps, too, as I’ve avoided that thing for the last 12 months as well. As far as food goes, improved food choices usually follow exercise for me, so I know that I’ll battle food temptations less when I’m physically active.

So far, it’s only been a few days, but I’m hoping that a few more days will wet cement these habits.  Once that mental cement sets, I’ll be in my pre-pregnancy planning circuit and my health overall will improve.  Right?  RIIIIIIIIIIIGHT.

Before that cement dries, I need to stick my finger in it and write “It’s worth it.”  And maybe also draw a cat out of the word “cat.”

FitBit Motivation.

I like my FitBit.  I’ve been using one since March of last year and it has consistently kept me motivated to keep moving.

… okay, let me check that for a second.

It’s not the device itself that keeps me on the move. Initially, I liked seeing the numbers climb on my step count and watching that ticker drove me to earn higher numbers.  It was a stark mental contrast to how I felt about my diabetes numbers, where I was aiming for more of a game of golf (bring that number DOWN, not UP).  FitBit was cool because the higher the number, the better.

Eventually, the newness of the self-tracking incentive wore off and I wasn’t as eager to fight to hit my step goal.  I still exercised daily, but with a little less oomph, if that makes sense.

What reinvigorated my motivation are the people I’m interacting with through the FitBit community.  And this is where diabetes intersects a bit, because most of the people I’m connecting with through FitBit are friends from the DOC (diabetes online community).

One of the things I like most about the FitBit are the challenges you can engage in.  Here’s a screenshot of what’s available (over there on the right) –>

The ones I like the most are Workweek Hustles, because you have five days to not only reach your own self-set goals, but you can pace yourself against friends, making it a friendly competition.  As the FitBit devices sync with the app, you can watch your step count climb and see which participant will come in “first” (with the most steps).

Dude, it is FUN to play and to flex my competitive muscle.  (I’m a little bit competitive.  Maybe more than a little bit, judging by my husband’s bemused raised eyebrow every time I go to use the treadmill at 9 pm.  “FitBit challenge again?”  “Yep.”  “Go get ’em.”)  And while exercise isn’t something I’ve ever shied away from, it’s more exciting when I’m held accountable.  If I’m in first place, there’s no way I’m going to skip a workout or avoid going for a walk or run, because I want to keep my foothold on that leader board.

These competitions play out awesomely for my blood sugars, if I stay on top of things.  Making an effort to move more during the day has brought my total daily doses of insulin down by more than 20%, which for me is quite a bit.  (Also, this is not medical advice or science of any kind.  Talk with your doctor if you are considering taking anything you read on the Internet as medical advice, because they are a doctor.  And I am simply an over-caffeinated FitBit addict.)

More importantly, I noticed that my activity level goes up significantly when I’m engaged in a FitBit challenge.  If there’s a competition to participate in, reaching my step goal of 12,000 steps per day is a piece of (gluten-free) cake.  It’s like having a dozen workout buddies.  (Read Laddie’s take on the challenges here.)

FitBit challenges are pretty freaking awesome.  And fun.  And help break up some of the mundane ho-hummishness that my exercise routine can fall into.  A dose a fun, friendly competition and accountability is exactly the gentle incentive I needed.

Bike Ride.

In one, frantic breath as we prepared to go for a bike ride, Birdy proclaims:

“We need to put a bottle of water in the bike basket and a snack in case I get hungry and a snack in case you get hungry or if you have a low blood sugar and your glucose meter and the glucose tabs in case you have a low blood sugar for real and in case I want to have one – that’s a joke, Mom, but really I can have a teeny, teeny bite if I want one, right? – and I will wear my helmet and you can walk while I ride on my bike and I’ll keep my eyes forward so I don’t fall off.”

Our version of “going for a bike ride” might sound complicated, but we do our thing and we do it well.

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