I like to think I have a pretty good sense of self. That is, I know who the hell I am. I can tell you exactly what’s important to me, what I’m good at, what I enjoy doing. And most importantly, I know WHY. I’ll admit, it took quite a few years to figure this out, and the story of how I did it is long and the subject for another day (or a book as it so happens!).
That being said, on the verge of turning fifty, the big FIVE OH, I was feeling pretty damned proud of myself, who I was, and my place in this world.
Until, suddenly, I didn’t.
This dramatic turn of events went down just this last Saturday as I spent the evening with my butt firmly planted on the couch. After polishing off a bottle of Pinot Grigio, a hunk of sharp cheddar cheese, and a bag of cashews (because there was no ice cream in the house) while binge-watching The Good Wife, I found myself mindlessly perusing my old Facebook photos. I was struck by two things. 1) I’ve had a lot of adventures over the last few years and 2) I’ve become a fat ass. Not a badass, mind you, a fat ass. Badass is what I was before raiding the freezer for my son’s ice cream treats became a nightly occurrence.
Staring wistfully at the selfie on the screen, the one where I flaunted my bad-ass bicep, I pondered how I’d let this happen.
How’d I go from spending any spare moment outdoors—riding my bike, hiking with the dog, kayaking down a stream infested with alligator gar (have you seen their teeth?), and bass fishing, thigh-deep in a lake at sunset, with my husband—to lazing away on the couch?
How’d I go from deadlifting my bodyweight for reps to struggling under the weight of a 30-pound bag of dogfood?
How’d I go from saying “no, thank you” to pizza…to potato chips…to candy bars and soda…to just about any junk food you waved in front of me—to saying “yes, please” to ALL. THE. FOOD. Oh, and can I have a glass of wine with that?
My previous self—the badass one—had some pretty amazing habits. Proper exercise. Good nutrition. An adventuresome spirit. All the things that health gurus promise will result in a long and happy life. And that’s exactly what I wanted. Who doesn’t, right?
The popular saying used to be that it takes 21 days to create a new habit. Hit the gym for three short weeks, and voila, there you have it, a brand new healthy exercise habit. Good job! Just set aside those Doritos and Cheetos (or for that matter, anything with -tos) for 21 days, and you’ve kicked that salty junk food habit to the curb. Way to go! Replace that sparkling wine with sparkling water for 21 days, and kiss that drinking habit goodbye. Congratulations, you win the “You’re Not an Alcoholic” award.
But now scientists say that it takes more like 66 days to create that new habit. 66 days to rewire your brain and change your behavior, hopefully for the better. 66 days of practice, patience, and perseverance. Sounds like a lot of work.
But it doesn’t have to be, and I’m living proof!
Seriously folks, I changed all my bad-ass habits in way less than 66 days, and it was as easy as pie!
Maybe I ought to write a BuzzFeed article about it. “3 Easy Steps to Transform Your Badass into a Fat Ass.” Yeah, that’s catchy. Here’s how that article would go.
Step 1. Get diagnosed with cancer. Again. But this time around, make sure you get the kind that makes you afraid to go out into the sun. Yes, I know that 99% of the things you love in life take place outside, but that’s just too damned bad. Your two-week post-op recovery period is the perfect time to experiment with alternatives for your favorite activities. Surely there are things you’ve been meaning to do. Start writing that novel you’ve been talking about. Learn a new language. Take up a new hobby, an inside hobby, a safe hobby. My grandma was an avid knitter, and it never once gave her cancer. True story.
After two weeks, you may feel like giving cancer the big FU. That’s perfectly normal and A-okay. Who is cancer to tell you what you can and cannot do? You’re the badass here, right? Go ahead and thumb your nose in cancer’s face. Get outside! Life your life! But you better cover yourself from head to toe in UV-protectant clothing. Sure, it’s 100 degrees outside, but what scares you more? A wee bit of heat exhaustion or spreading malignant melanoma? That’s what I thought, so don’t forget your hat! A wide, floppy brimmed hat is a two-for-one. Not only does it protect your face from those nasty cancer-causing UV rays, it also makes a great fashion statement! Finally, douse any skin still left exposed with enough sunblock that purchasing Banana Boat stock makes sound financial sense.
Still afraid of that big ball o’ cancer in the sky? If so, you may want to sit this one out. After all, it’s safer inside. Boring, yes. But safe. And besides, that’s what Netflix is for.
Step 2. Say goodbye to your husband—your very best friend—for the next year. If that doesn’t suck the joy right out of your life, then you shouldn’t be married in the first place. But what about all that free time you suddenly have on your hands? The time you’d usually be hiking and fishing and kayaking with your hubby? And oh yes, don’t forget about the time you’d be enjoying each other, you know, sexually. This is a lot of free time waiting to be filled! The answer? Fill it with food! Food makes everything better. Especially fatty food. Salty food. Sweet food. Okay, all the food. Except salad. That really doesn’t seem to do the trick. Be prepared though. You’re going to have to be persistent. The food you shove down your gullet while sitting on that safe couch watching Netflix (don’t forget Step 1) will only fill the void for a short period time. You’ll need to keep at it, usually until it’s time to go to bed. Don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of time for more practice tomorrow night.
Step 3. Try cooking healthy meals for one adult (you) and one teenage son who’s fussier than the typical toddler. One up that challenge by having the teenager in question be too lazy to eat leftovers because of all the effort involved. You know, taking food out of the fridge, placing it on a plate, and heating it in a microwave. That’s a whole lotta work for one kid when Taco Bell is right down the street.
Not to put undue pressure on you, but this leftover business is all up to you. Soon, you’re throwing money down the drain as leftovers spoil in the fridge. There’s only so much salmon you can eat before you want to give up fishing as a hobby, even though you catch bass, not salmon, and the salmon you eat comes from a farm, not a lake. But you get the idea. Chicken is good for you, somewhat decent tasting, and loved by the fussy teen. But a five-pound chicken gets a bit aged in the fridge before you can eat it all and ends up joining last week’s salmon. Same with the grass fed sirloin you bought for $15.99 a pound at the local meat market. And the pasture-raised pork. Watch the organic berries you bought for such a great deal at Costco grow fuzzy before you can eat them, making you wonder if it was such a great deal after all.
And what about those nights when your favorite teenager is working late? You’ve arrived home after an exhausting day in Cubicle Land, the couch is calling your name, and you just can’t bring yourself to chop up a head of broccoli or clean the Brussels sprouts or rice that cauliflower. A hunk of cheese and a glass or two of wine will do just fine. Be sure to sigh as you prop your feet up on that couch. Later, when your stomach insists that cheese and wine are appetizers, not dinner, you raid the deep freeze and binge on chocolate and peanut covered Drumsticks. Devouring that tidbit of frozen chocolate at the bottom of each cone never loses its allure.
At this point, cooking has become an expensive waste of time better spent relaxing on the couch. Who needs cooking when there’s cheese, wine, and ice cream, anyway?
And there you have it. Follow these three simple steps, and before you know it, you’ll be trading your badass for a fat ass. It won’t be hard; in fact, it’ll be easy. Guaranteed.
But wait. There’s more.
While these three steps are simple, once you complete them, your hard work is just beginning. As it turns out, not many people want to keep the fat ass once they’ve earned it and quickly inquire about the return policy. Unfortunately, returning to the badass state is a hell of a lot harder, takes more discipline, and requires an uncomfortable reduction in cheese, wine, and ice cream treats.
So what can you do?
If you’re currently a badass, do your damnedest to stay that way. Don’t let life bulldoze over you and destroy what makes you proud. The path of least resistance may seem the easiest to follow, especially when you’re being pummeled by things outside your control, but you know what? Giving up what brings you joy will not only make your ass fat, it’ll make you feel like shit. True story.
And now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going bike riding, covered in Banana Boat, so when my husband returns, I’ll have transformed this fat ass back into my usual badass self.