Many people assume that the mates and spouses of ardent athletes and fitness freaks are also ardent athletes and fitness freaks. Hmm, not so much. In fact, unless a couple meets at a triathlon or while playing a sport, it’s pretty common that opposites attract – just like in most relationships.
Before I share the particulars of a recent interview with my husband – the opposite of an ardent athlete and fitness freak – please note that I asked his permission before sharing the details of his health, background and challenges with living a healthy lifestyle (so don’t call him and ask him why I’m putting his business in the street).
Background: My husband, Maurice, and I have been married for fifteen years and we are opposites. I love to do fitness stuff so much, I left corporate America and a growing career in finance to work in my passion of wellness and exercise. Maurice does not love fitness stuff. He did not leave corporate America and is a busy Fortune 50 executive traveling across time zones 40-60% of the month.
I eat sparingly – I love fruits, veggies and seafood – I hate soda and juice, only drink water, and avoid eating meat for digestive reasons. Maurice loves a well-seasoned piece of meat with sauce and thoroughly enjoys a bowl of ice cream and an Arnold Palmer (half lemonade, half sweetened ice tea).
I have to get at least 7 hours of sleep (preferably on a firm mattress with cool silky sheets) to function well during the day. Maurice rarely sleeps a continuous 5 hours and is often found snoring on the couch in front of the television with the remote control still resting in the crook of his limp hand.
I naturally wake up early with the sun and enjoy a walk, yoga session or meditation outside before starting my day. Maurice sleeps until the alarm rings and heads out to catch a flight, meet a client or start a conference call.
I believe in self healing and Eastern alternative preventive care techniques. Maurice has several bottles of prescriptions for various health issues in the medicine cabinet.
The Issue: Due to his unhealthy eating habits, lack of exercise and a high-stress workstyle, Maurice’s cholesterol has been steadily climbing to a point so high, his physician put him on Lipitor, which he takes daily. He is overweight, stressed out and on meds.
We have tried working out together – not successful. He has tried not eating meat at all – not successful. He had a membership to LA Fitness – not successful. I suggested he stop playing video games and watching television until falling asleep in front of the screen – not successful. He tried taking martial arts with our sons – not successful.
End Result: I gave up and stopped making suggestions. I stopped paying attention to what he ate or drink when we went out – I accepted who and what my husband is and stopped trying. I found trail and mountain-hiking partners and stopped asking Maurice to go with me. I stopped eating what the rest of the family ate and started preparing separate evening meals for myself. I quit suggesting how Maurice could wear his clothing to camouflage his growing stomach and accepted what he wore and how he wore it. I stopped begging him to get a massage and acupuncture and simply kept up my own monthly preventive and pampering treatments. When it came to health and wellness – I went on my journey and he went on his. Happy couple – no arguments - It was all good.
The Interview: One morning last week, Maurice and I were leisurely hanging around chatting about politics, our kids and life when it dawned on me to ask him about wellness:
“You know, Maurice, I have clients with the exact same challenges as you. Yo-yo dieting, starting and stopping various exercise programs, on prescribed medications, stressed out. We both know that you have had challenges sticking to great programs, but what have you been doing lately that has stuck and worked?”
He was quiet and contemplated the question for a minute or two. While he ruminated, I thought about the changes I’d noticed in him the last few months. He looked trimmer and his arms were more muscular. His complexion was smoother and unblemished. He seemed more relaxed and engaging. In fact, I didn’t think I’d seen him pick up a video game controller more than two or three times in the last month or so.
“Well,” he started, “I have been eating something healthy every morning for the last three months. A bag of cheerios or a granola bar if I have to run out, or you may have noticed me eating a bowl of cereal.”
He was right, I had noticed that.
“I’ve also started swimming laps almost every day. And when I travel, I choose hotels with indoor pools so I can swim before or after my meetings.”
“How long have you been doing that?”
“Hm,” I could see him calculating the weeks and months in his mind. “Hm, for about a couple of months now.” He added, “And if I can’t get an indoor pool, I’ll take one with a gym on-site and I work out on the elliptical and do some pushups.”
I had noticed him doing pushups in the bedroom every morning before his shower since the beginning of the year. Cool.
“What else have you been able to stick to?”
“Uh, I’ve been forcing myself to turn off the television at night and go to sleep.”
“Yeah, I’ve noticed you in the bed instead of on the couch!”
“Mm hm. Since I’ve started sleeping at night instead of playing video games and watching movies, I’ve had more energy during the day and I’m not as stressed out when dealing with stuff at work.”
We both sat in comfortable silence as we digested what he was saying. Unhealthy habits that he’d had for more than twenty years, he was slowly changing in his 40s.
“Oh yeah,” he continued, “I’ve also been watching my late-night sweets consumption.”
We both chuckled thinking about his nightly bowl of ice cream and my bag of gummy bears (I’m not totally innocent here).
“But I’ve noticed dirty ice cream bowls in the sink for the last few days,” I said.
“Well, I still get cravings just like you do, but it’s not my regular habit anymore,” he responded with a shrug.
He was right. I’d noticed that he wasn’t consuming sweets until falling asleep on the couch, the empty bowl resting at his feet.
“How long have you been doing all this stuff?” I asked him.
After a few seconds of thought, he said, “Since February or March.”
It’s July – that’s almost 6 months!
“What made you decide to do this now?”
Maurice took a deep breath and let out a soft sigh. “When I went to Dr. Ito and he showed me those cholesterol numbers over 300 and told me what could happen as a result, I knew I had to do something. I don’t want to take Lipitor every day for the rest of my life.”
I laid next to him quietly for a long time after he said that. I knew the changes he’d made weren’t easy for him, and that he had to really be concerned about his health and our family’s future in order to do what he was doing. I also knew I had to share his experiences.
If I’m honest with myself and my clients, I can’t fully relate to the challenges Maurice and my clients have with eating and not exercising. My career and life are one big exercise class.
“Can I share this?” I eventually asked him. “Can I blog about it, can I talk about this conversation and your journey in my presentations? I think so many people will be able to relate to your challenges, your story and your successes.”
“Yeah, sure. Why not?” he said.
Then he got up, put on his swim trunks and left for the pool.