Let me set this up. If you love grocery shopping and going to the gym then this post is most definitely not for you. It only took me 18 years and a tailbone injury. So please, be patient. Life is a pilgrimage, not a race. If you can address your own bad habits in less time, or if my life lesson can help in any way, then I will genuinely be happy for you.
Present day life. Simple and beautiful? Sometimes but definitely not always. I am always trying my best. For example, this exchange just recently occurred in our kitchen between my 14 year old daughter and I. True story. My third has a habit that is, well, how can I put it diplomatically, less than desirable. Chalk it up to hormones. Or is it horrormones? One day she will read this and understand when her own children become teenagers. I think we all know the word for this: Retribution.
Hangry teens are simply impossible. You know when urban slang enters your everyday lexicon? Selfie, hashtag, yolo, onesie are all pretty awesome in my humble opinion. My personal favourite? Hangry. Apply it to a teen and it’s like they have been possessed by an evil hormonal food monster with dangerously low blood glucose levels. Doesn’t matter if you have spent a small fortune at Costco or how much food you have in your house, they will always utter these four words:
Hangry Teen: There’s nothing to eat!
Me: Sorry. I didn’t go to the gym today.
To which end, I promptly left the kitchen, like Thelma & Louise‘s exit off the cliff. That’s how this homemaker now rolls. I believe that is also called a #truthbomb. Also a pretty creative word. Truth: I really dislike grocery shopping. Bomb: Always have. As a child, I remember sitting in the car after school with my siblings while my Mum would run into Big B, the local supermarket in Barbados, each time saying: “I just have to get a few things. I won’t be long”. Then, after what seemed like an eternity, my Mum would emerge with usually no less than four bags. Lucky for us, we had each other and would yack or fight or listen to the radio in the car, usually in the shade if our Mum could find a spot. While this frequent ritual continued, something quietly started to develop within. Little did I know that I was secretly building a disdain for grocery shopping.
Then I became a Mum and a homemaker. Instead of accepting the reality that all humans need food for survival, my attitude towards grocery shopping got worse with each addition. As the dedicated home economist, I created a bad habit of delaying going for groceries until the point of no return. By avoiding shopping frequently, I would invariably make things more difficult than they really needed to be. When our provisions would sink to dangerously low levels and I could hear my inner voice repeatedly singing, “Old Mother Hubbard“, I would admit defeat, face the dread and go off to the store. My husband would help out when he could but I was pretty much the one behind the wheel on this one.
Delaying the inevitable of needing groceries for the family invariably leads to a much greater problem. And I am not referring to the aforementioned hangry teen. I would be forced to buy so much food to feed our four kids that I would be “that” person you do not ever want to line up behind. That person who would have so much on the belt to pack away into bags that not even the best Tetris champion could save you. Then getting it to the car… into the house… putting it all away. The issue would only compound in the winter months. Just writing this makes me shiver.
I know what you are thinking. First World Problem. I know. Listen, whenever I am back home in Barbados and see the prices of groceries, I count my blessings as soon as I get back to Toronto. My first grocery trip on any return feels like one of those moments when you witness the Pope kiss the ground. I feel so blessed and really need to smarten up! All the pictures of produce I snapped to remind me that good food is truly something to be grateful for.
So I decided to solve the problem and get back in the driver’s seat, like Thelma & Louise did. OK, maybe the analogy is a bit dramatic but I like to think like that sometimes. They just kept going and I am sure as hell trying my best.
I changed my poor grocery shopping habits by joining a local gym that sits on top of a supermarket. Haha. Sounds simple enough. Honestly, the only other thing I dislike as much as grocery shopping is going to the gym. But I felt like I was spiralling out of control and needed to haul it back in and get back in the game. In using the principle of a “To Not-Do List“, I put these two things on the top of the list. By taking on the two things I do not enjoy, I free up time to do the things I like. Like being healthy for myself and my family AND having food to eat. Far more productive. Hey, if you can’t beat ’em, why not join them?
The food photos I carefully selected as they match the ten 4′ x 4′ posters that I see every day at my gym. Geeky. I know. But the signs are pretty (*insert profanity) awesome. Words can be great motivators.
I have not actively gone to a gym in years. I was 26 when I started our family and it has taken me well over a decade to get with the programme. Call me a slow learner. When our third was born, yes, the hangry one, I spent a year going to a women’s gym in the burbs. Did me a world of good back then too. It gave me the physical and mental strength I was lacking with three kids under the age of four. Strong enough also to realize that Toronto was where our family needed to be. The price of living in Toronto as a homemaker meant that I had to put on hold the idea of an annual gym membership… kids gotta eat!
Kids. Yes we would die for them but they sure have a way of getting in the way of putting our own health higher on the pole. It was a no-brainer that I wanted to be better than before. Author Gretchen Rubin, has a name to describe this Mum tendency: Obliger. In her book, aptly named, Better Than Before, she brings up the suggestion that what is helpful for obligers (who put external expectations before internal needs) is to pair habits together and make yourself accountable. Then you have a greater chance of sticking to it. I have found this to be the case for me. I always feel accountable to my children and know that making myself healthy, even for their sake, is a good motive. Sure, I should be making myself healthy for Me. But it is not always easy to accept that, “self-regard isn’t selfish”. So true.
In making the connection that fitness and food holds great value, this gives me clarity and validation. That is why I feel that my approach is working.
It has now been well over a year of my new routine and I am happy to report that I am back in the driver’s seat. Definitely stronger than before. I have never felt better about taking care of my health and my family since I made the pairing. Since I only need to pick up a few things with each gym visit, I now enjoy going to the supermarket. In fact, I also really enjoy going the gym. Crazy. But true. I am also really happy with the gym I go to. Sorry guys, it’s a Women’s Only gym and that means there are no awkward moments or glances to make the ladies feel uncomfortable. All the women who go are real women. 100%. All shapes and sizes. All ages. All different fitness levels. It makes me feel so proud to walk through the doors each day to see the faces of other women, who like me, need to take care of themselves. All the signage is just an added bonus.
On a side note, the gym guide who gave me my first orientation on the machines said that since she retired she made a promise to herself that she sticks to: thou shalt leave the house at least once a day. To a professed hermit crab, this was like a bolt of lightning. Now, instead of shopping once or twice a month, I shop Monday through Friday. I aim for five days a week. The weekends are free. Free of gym time or groceries (unless something is vital). Getting out of the house (other than to drop and collect kids) is an added mental health bonus.
I am not big on publicly endorsing places so I have not mentioned the name of my gym in this post. Let’s just say that I am living a pretty good life. My two favourite signs happen to be printed above the windows that run the length of the gym:
Do something today that your future self with thank you for.
The Foundation of all happiness is HEALTH.
YOLO. Damn right. Here’s the other truth. Any gym can do the trick! You also do not need to be a homemaker to make this work. If the grocery store is not in the same building, find one that is around the corner, or close by, so you know you can take care of both needs with one outing. If I can break my bad habits by pairing them together, trust me, there is hope. Like the saying goes: If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. My new mantra just so happens to be: If Mama ain’t going to the gym, ain’t no food entering the house. No matter how hangry you are.
[Image credits: All the gym poster images I took to file for inspiration. Whenever I am not feeling in the mood to go, I tell myself I only have to exercise for 10 minutes, I read one of the signs and then I get my mojo back. Words are powerful. Every time, without fail, I end up staying for more than 10 minutes and I feel so much better.]