Monday, March 28, 2005

Living Healthy in Vacationland

A couple of years ago, my husband and I decided to make some lifestyle changes. We devoted ourselves to healthy eating and regular exercise. He lost over 50 pounds, and I lost over 20. Thus far, we've managed to keep most of it off, but while he is still good about working out regularly, the frequency of my exercise has declined.

I am a night owl who enjoys doing my exercise in the evenings, after dinner. That used to work out well until I started my travel agency. My full-time job took up the daytime hours, and my travel agent responsibilities filled up the nights. My favorite type of workout is swimming, but between driving to and from the health club, doing laps in the pool, and showering afterwards, the time investment is at least a couple of hours. Soon enough, I slipped from going five days a week to three, and then to two or one. Finally, I realized that I wasn't going at all.

For a while, I forced myself to work out at home with my various workout videos and DVDs. I love Leslie Sassone's "Walk Away the Pounds" series, and the "Slim in Six" infomercial set is great too. I also have "The Firm," with a weight pole and stepper that really helps with butt reduction. Unfortunately, my in-home workouts soon fell by the wayside, too. I didn't stop exercisng completely; no matter what, I slipped in a 30 minute lunchtime walk Monday through Friday. But although I was able to maintain most of my weight loss, I wasn't doing enough to continue losing.

Once we moved to Celebration, I knew that I would have to redouble my efforts. There are way too many tempting restaurants at Disney World, from the various countries at Epcot to Boma and Jiko at the Animal Kingdom Lodge to Artists Point in the Wilderness Lodge. Some are more dangerous than others, like Ohana (in the Polynesian hotel) with its neverending skewers of freshly grilled meat and the sumptuous seafood buffet at Cape May in the Beach Club. And after a long day of working, the fast food on 192 beckons because it's so much quicker and easier than cooking.

Both my husband and I have rededicated ourselves to our healthy lifestyle. It wasn't too hard for me; I simply had to remind myself that I have reached the big Four Oh, and that both of my parents died in their early fifties. Granted, my maternal grandparents were spry and healthy well into their eighties, and I inherited my grandmother's body type, but there are no guarantees that I also got her healthful. No sense in tempting fate when I can watch what I eat and get myself moving around.

For eating, this means planning out our meals and making a weekly trip to Publix to stock up on fresh meats and vegetables. We do that Monday through Friday and take the weekend off so we don't feel deprived.

Exercise is a bit more tricky, since it means finding the time somewhere in my busy schedule. My husband gained a couple of hours in his day, since he had to commute back and forth to downtown Chicago via train. Now he spends that time pedaling his bike around town. That's one of the reasons that he loves Florida; here, cycling is a year 'round possibility (at least for him). Personally, I could never do it in the height of the summer, when you can cut the humidity with a knife. But hubby thrives on the heat, and humid air only seems to energize him more.

I am still working two jobs, so even though I work totally from home now, I'm still in the same situation. My workplace in Chicago was only three minutes down the street, so moving to Florida didn't free up any time for me. But I've started walking with a friend early in the morning; it goes against my night owl tendencies, but I've really learned to enjoy it. Celebration is just starting to come alive when I head downtown around 7:30. The wildlife is abundant on the walking paths, and the weather is still cool and pleasant. By waking up early, I force myself to get to bed by a fairly decent hour (if left to my own devices, I'd probably be up until 2 a.m.).

But walking isn't enough to get my weight back on a downward trend. I resolved that after our latest cruise, which we took over Easter weekend, I would join the fitness center at Celebration Health. It has lots of classes and equipment, but the most appealing aspect for me is the two indoor pools. We have several outdoor community pools in Celebration, but they're not really geared to serious lap swimmers and exercisers. Our pool in East Village is a small, round "pond" with a cement island in the center. I've been known to water-jog in circles around the island, but that's a great way to get dizzy.

The pools in North and South Villages and Lakeside Park have lap lanes, but there are usually lots of people just floating around or lounging in the water. Doing laps can be a challenge when you have to work around a human obstacle course. Also, the only heated pool is Lakeside, and even though the water is warm, on chilly days there is no way that you can avoid the inevitable getting out and turning into a human Popscicle.

At the fitness center, there is a lap pool and also a warm therapy pool. Even the lap pool is relatively balmy, and since they are indoors, you can use them in inclement weather (an advantage when you live in the lightning capital of the United States).

Celebration Health is only a couple of minutes from my home. In Chicago, the health club was a good 20 minutes away, or sometimes more if traffic was bad. With the fitness center in Celebration, I can't use the distance or rush hour as an excuse to put off going.

My husband and I had toured the fitness center a while back, and we were impressed with the facility. It's not as large as our old health club, but it has a good variety of equipment and lots of classes. I enjoy group yoga, pilates, and water aerobics, so that's a big draw for me. Since hubby has to return to Chicago two weeks a month, he retained his memership at our old club. But I'm in Celebration most of the time, so I decided that joining the fitness center would give me the boost I need to get back into a regular exercise routine.

We went on our cruise Easter weekend, and although I tried to practice moderation, I still ate more than I should have. How could I resist eggs benedict and blueberry pancakes for breakfast, cooked-to-order pasta and fresh tossed salad for lunch, ice cream topped with M&Ms for a snack, and a thick filet topped with gorgonzola cheese for dinner, complemented with chocolate souffle filled with hazelnut sauce.

One of the best parts of sailing on Disney's ships is their adults-only restaurant, Palo. All of their restaurants are quite delicious, but Palo is special. It has its own galley, where the food is prepared to order. The cuisine is Northern Italian; it reminds me of D'Antonio's in Celebration. Palo has the best lasagna that I've ever eaten, and that's a special compliment coming from me because I don't really like lasagna. Filet mignon is a regular item on their menu (a good option for meat-and-potatoes types who shy away from things like crab and portobello mushroom-stuffed ravioli), but they have various daily specials that often tempt me away from my usual favorites. On our cruise this past weekend, they had a pesto pasta with sun dried tomatoes and potatoes. Yes, potatoes. I know that sounds strange, but it was so delicious. This was the first time I've ever seen it in 43 cruises, but I'm hoping they'll keep it around.

But after a weekend of indulgence, I was ready to renew my commitment to healthy living. Even when I'm on the ship, I try to do a deck walk or go water jogging on Castaway Cay (Disney's private island, where the Wonder docks on Saturday). Now that I'm back in Celebration, I headed over to the fitness center tonight and signed myself up for a year. Making a financial commitment helps to inspire me to get off my lazy butt, and the idea of a refreshing dip in the pool is the icing on the cake.

After completing my contract, I headed off to the locker room to prepare for an evening swim. I was pleased to discover that the fitness center provides towels, soap, shampoo, and even Q-tips, mouthwash, and deodorant! I had packed a bag with everything that I thought I'd need, and my array of supplies rivaled a drugstore. In the future, all I'll have to bring is conditioner and a moisturizer for my face to counter the effects of the chlorine.

There were a couple of people in the lap pool, but they were leaving just as I arrived. I selected a lane, jumped in, and embarked on a 45 minute workout, jogging and swimming back and forth in the water. The pool is deeper than the one at my old health club, and I am only 5 foot 2 inches tall, so the depth added an extra challenge. After I was done, I treated myself to a few minutes in the warm therapy pool, which also has whirlpool jets.

I felt quite good and invigorated after my workout. I love doing laps in the pool because it feels more like fun than a chore. I'll have to check out the exercise class schedule and slip in some yoga and water aerobics, too.

It's still going to be a challenge to fit my workouts into my busy schedule, but I am going to stick to my commitment. I did it before, and now that I'm living in Vacationland, with temptations around every corner, it's even more important to renew my commitment and do it again. I'd love to lose about 20 more pounds, but even if I can just tighten up some of the flab and shrink my butt, I'll be happy.

Well, off to bed now so I'll be bright and chipper for my walk tomorrow!

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