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Food and Fitness -- One Woman's Journey

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I've been walking for years now and find that although I've tried just about every exercise out there, walking remains my favorite -- although it was one I came to slowly.

At 21, I was overweight and reluctant to look at myself in the mirror and blame my eating habits. In those days, only taste mattered. I loved to eat waffles with syrup, sugary cereals, pancakes, fried chicken, you name it. I remember the days when I would sit and eat two waffles loaded with syrup and then go back for seconds. Sometimes I ate two plates full of spagetti. Eventually, my eating took its toll and at my 28th birthday party, a guest asked me if I was 35. She apologized later but that statement really opened my eyes.

I started walking the very next day. At first I walked just in the neighborhood streets for 30 minutes and it made me very tired. Every two weeks, I increased the distance -- two streets, then three, then four and it went on. Pretty soon I graduated to the main street. I walked the length of the long street marking my territories by the stop signs and traffic signals. After a year I was walking neighborhoods by the grid style. I made my way between major streets by the mile and graduated to three to four miles. While I kept a mellow pace, I didn't press myself to walk any faster than I could and enjoyed the walks very much.

Then another eye-opening moment occurred. A friend told me no matter how much I walked, I wouldn't be able to reach my goal weight. She told me I needed to stop increasing the distance and start increasing the speed. I resisted her suggestion and went on as I did before.

Eventually, however, I realized I needed to kick up my workout if I wanted to fight diabetes and heart disease, and after some time joined a gym and started taking aerobics. The gym's trainer told me that I need to determine which type of exercise worked for me. According to her, each person has his or her preference for different kinds of exercise depending on how their body and mind react to that particular exercise. So, I experimented with different forms of exercises -- running, using gym equipment, free weights, jumping rope, yoga, pilates, trampoline jumping, calesthenics, swimming, riding the stationary bike and even Zumba classes.

As years went by, I noticed my tastes in food and workouts were running parallel. In my 20s, I was more into delicious but unhealthy foods. In my thirties, my tastes matured and I was more into lamb, turkey, chicken, hotdogs, lunch meats and rice. In my forties, I started eating lighter foods like salads, soups, light cereal and turkey burgers. Of course, pizza and donuts remained my favorite and I somehow got addicted to chocolate cake a la mode -- a disaster waiting to happen. My other addiction was to gallons of coffee everyday. By the end of my forties and now in my early fifties, I mellowed down to comfort foods like brown rice, turkey, half meals, light lunch meats, multi grain/nut whole wheat breads, veggies, two cups of coffee and most importantly, a little brain to think before I put anything in mouth.

I've also noticed I could not eat as much food any more. If I eat more than two pieces of chicken, for example, I feel nauseated by the third bite. And I get heart burn with more than two pieces of pizza so I don't really eat it. I also became allergic to franchise pizzas and hardly touch fast food anymore. I would rather eat at home where I can control my portions as well as my diabetes.

As time went by my tastes in exercise also changed and began mellowing. From aerobics, machines and jogging in my earlier years, I have now settled in with jumping rope, long, but brisk walks, and yoga punctuated with occassional cardio kickboxing. All the time, I'm being careful not to hurt myself. Despite the variety, walking has remained my favorite form of exercise as well as entertainment. I enjoy watching the neighborhoods.

Different houses, designs, parks, people with dogs, my own dog, construction workers, people on motor bikes, other pedestrians. Now I don't feel tired if I walk for hours. Sometimes I sit in the park, turn my Ipod off and just listen to nature. Sometimes I walk by the bayou behind the houses to watch the bunnies in silence. Walking doesn't just give me a good physical health. It also gives me mental peace and think time for my own self. Now I don't walk just for exercise, I walk as transportation to book stores, nearby grocery stores, libraries, everywhere that I could that not only burns my calories but also gives me self satisfaction.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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