by Maggie Marr
This October will be the 10th anniversary of the sale of my first two books to Random House. At the time my books sold, I was still working as a subsidiary rights and motion picture agent at ICM and I was unaware of just how hazardous the career of writer could be to my health.
With the birth of kidlet 2 in 2006, the pounds I'd dutifully lost through Weight Watchers after kidlet 1 didn't slide off as easily...or let's be honest...I wasn't as diligent in removing those pounds. In the midst of two children and diapers and breast-feeding and book deadlines and pre-school and sleepless nights and teething and [name all the things that come with toddlers] I lost sight of my health and my eating and any activity that wasn't about corralling two young children.
For years, I lost sight of my health.
Fast-forward to 2014—yes 2014. Of course, on occasion during those 8 years, I attempted to 'get healthy', but there was always some deadline looming, or event pending, or client in need, which allowed me to shove to the bottom of my list all things that had to do with my health. Let's be clear—I've never been a physically active person. I do not crave the hike, the run, the swim. I don't want to eat the carrot, the broccoli, the quinioa. Give me a book, a glass of red wine, a baguette, and some brie and I am happy. To, me, sitting and reading and eating is the perfect day, but not so perfect for my health.
In 2014, at a writers conference I was walking to an event with a number of other writers. The writer beside me was huffing and puffing and I was huffing and puffing and I was struck with just how unhealthy I'd allowed myself to become.
My weight was pushing 187, my bloodwork, that I'd soon have done, would indicate too much cholesterol and some scary pre-diabetic numbers. I didn't walk, swim, run, or exercise on a regular basis, my body ached and hurt, my diet included anything I wanted at anytime, and now I had fear over my health as a companion.
Our job as a writer can kill. Every study indicates that a sedentary lifestyle is a deadly lifestyle. A recent study found that to be healthy, as we age, we should exercise aerobically for 45 minutes 6 days a week. With my career as writer and attorney, it wasn't uncommon for me to sit at my computer for 8 hours with only the occasional bathroom break as exercise.
After the huffing and puffing episode, I realized if I wanted to live a long life I had to change my habits.
For the first time in my life exercise and diet weren't about ego, they were about staying alive. I wasn't trying to get back to my law school weight of 118 so that I could look H-O-T in a pair of skinny jeans (those days had long passed). No, I needed to exercise and change my diet so that I might live to write all the stories bouncing around in my head. I wanted to live to attend the kidlets' graduations and weddings and the births of all the grand-kidlets.
Alone I am weak, but with my writer-friends I am strong, thus the #healthywriter hashtag was born. The use of social media to keep myself honest. Many of my writer friends fight this same #healthywriter battle. The battle to stay healthy and write. The battle to get my ass, (that I fight to plant in the chair to write) up and out of the chair to move. To reach for the carrot sticks instead of the chocolate. To acknowledge that while the french fries may dull the pain for a brief while, they do not fix the problem.
The #healthywriter journey is similar to the 'finish the damn book journey'. I've had some brilliant moments, some shocking realizations, a number of personal defeats, and a constant nagging voice urging me to stop.
I've used many of the same tools in trying to be a #healthywriter that I've honed completing 14 books.
- Much like my writing career, on my #healthywriter journey, I create goals and check-in with those goals.
- Each day I log my minutes/miles of exercise.
- Once a week I take stock of my success by hopping on the scale.
- I keep track of what I eat on fitness pal.
- I've found a number of writer pals to 'check-in' with, as I often did when writing my first couple of books.
As in writing, with trying to get healthy there are setbacks. Many, many setbacks. The holidays...oh the holidays. I was pleased to just maintain my weight during the holidays and that was while exercising daily. Also, the weight slides off oh-so-slowly. I remember being a 20-something and I could exercise for a week, eat salads, and drop an easy five pounds. Those days are gone. Now, at 40-something, with exercise nearly every day and a healthy diet, I am pleased if I see any movement downward on the scale. A great week is a loss of a half pound. A HALF POUND.
The weeks when the scale doesn't move or even goes up are torture. I liken the emotions in that moment to how I feel when I receive a rejection letter or a pass. The scale is rejecting my hard work and my reaction can, at times, be just as emotional. I get off the scale, and in that moment of rejection I have two choices, I can go and do a faceplant in a bag of chips, which will only create more rejection the next week or I can soldier onward.
In writing, when faced with rejection, this is an easy choice—I won't stop writing. I can't stop writing. Writing, for me, is like showering and when I stop, I get funky and smell bad. Getting healthy is similar. I can pause, I can eat the chips, bread, cheese, dip, ice cream, [insert your favorite bad-for-you-food] but that momentary food-high isn't going to 'fix' the problem on the scale. Sure, the food will dull my pain for a while, but the challenge of blood work and pounds will still be present in my life, and if I eat enough chips, the pounds will bring friends for next week.
In this conflicted emotional state, when the scale has rejected my effort, I struggle to not self-sooth with food. Food is my drug of choice, and food most-definitely numbs the pain...momentarily.
It is in these moments that I am trying to reframe. Replace the old habit of self-soothing with food with a new habit that is built on self-love. I've discovered that sitting down with a book or meditating for ten minutes or simply going outside into the garden can get me past the need for brie. Not always, but sometimes.
My #healthywriter journey continues.
Lately my #healthywriter good-habits have been lax. The end of March, I finished the 21-day junk food challenge and then became less-than diligent about my eating. I recently recommitted to my healthy eating. I continue to walk, almost daily. I've also re-started T-25 on the days that I just can't get my walk accomplished.
Is this new lifestyle easy? No, and again #healthywriter is a lot like writing. Writing my 15th book isn't easy. Writing a book, I don't believe, will ever be easy, but I now have a number of tools to get me past the rough patches. I know myself as a writer, and the spots where I struggle and the bad-habits in my writing of which I need to be aware.
The longer I walk the #healthywriter path, the more this lifestyle becomes like writing, in that I know my trigger emotions, what foods I crave, what will happen if I don't get enough sleep or exercise of self-care. With each day on my #healthywriter journey, I become stronger and better equipped to take on the next #healthywriter challenge.
How does your career choice challenge your health? What #healthywriter habits do you want to put in place?
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Maggie Marr is an author, attorney, and producer. She is the author of the best-selling Hollywood Girls Club Series, The Glamour Series, The Eligible Billionaires Series, and The Powder Springs Series. She maintains a small legal practice dedicated to entreprenures and artists.