Sparkling Vintage Fiction. Among other things.

Habits

Sparkling Vintage Health: Steps on the Journey

tennis2Last week I wrote about wanting to improve my health and what the pre-World War II ladies magazines call “vitality.” I looked up “vitality” in the dictionary. The first definition is, “the peculiarity of distinguishing the living from the nonliving.” That’s telling it like it is!

So far my old-fashioned approach has been two-pronged: walking a lot and choosing fresh, unprocessed food as much as possible. In the May sunshine, walking is pleasant and I actually look forward to it, but making time for it can feel like a hurdle. Twice in recent days I’ve been stuck “in town” between appointments (“town” being about 15 miles away from our rural home) and have used that time to walk in a park. I told myself I didn’t need workout clothes or athletic shoes (although, note to self: keep a pair in the car). I was already wearing comfortable flats, so off I went.

Walking in the park is fun for two reasons: (1) the terrain is flat–a nice break from the steep hills around my home. (My husband figured out that walking from the bottom of our property to the top is like climbing eight stories!) and (2) there are people around! Baseball and lacrosse teams, kids and moms on the playground, tennis players, other walkers . . . such fun to people-watch. I love to nature-watch, too, and soak up the peace and solitude of the woods surrounding my home, but for a literal change of pace, it’s enjoyable to switch to the park. Bonus: I felt like that interval between appointments wasn’t wasted.

Feeding myself well is harder. It’s so easy to grab whatever’s at hand and call it a meal. I’ve made a deliberate effort to concentrate on protein and vegetables and limited carbs. A typical breakfast is coffee, an egg, and a quarter of an avocado on toast. Lunch is soup or salad and a sandwich (trying to limit to half a sandwich). Dinner is meat or fish and vegetables for me, plus bread or potatoes for my husband. And water, water, water.

So where does the “vintage” part come in? Eating fresh, minimally processed food and walking have been human activities since forever. I don’t need a gym or any special gadgetry (although I got a nifty fitness band for my birthday that tracks my steps and heart rate–definitely not vintage, but kind of useful). The foods I’m eating are not much different from what a woman would have eaten 100 years ago.  My fitness is centered around typical human activities: walking, bending, stretching, putting some muscle into housework and yardwork. Drop me into 1916 and my food and activity wouldn’t look that different. Except, of course, from jumping on the Internet to talk about it!

First week’s results: two pounds down, high energy, and rosy cheeks from being out in the sun.

Sparkling Vintage Health: Shaping My Future

Hikers, 1940s.

Hikers, 1940s.

This is going to be one of my more vulnerable posts, but I’m sharing it with you because I know that at least a few of you struggle with a similar issue: health and fitness. My doctor, my scale, my own eyeballs in the mirror, my recent birthday, and the summer clothing I’m pulling out of hibernation (not necessarily in that order) have convinced me for the umpteenth time that it’s time to Do Something About My Health.

I lost a few pounds last summer, but over the winter they came wandering back. They missed me! So now I’m back to having plenty of pounds to lose, if the standard BMI calculators are to be trusted, which I think they are, more or less. But I also know that my weight is not the real problem, but a symptom of other problems. Middle age and its attendant physical changes have hit me with a whallop. I’ve also become increasingly aware that the foods many of us eat these days are quick, convenient, tasty . . . and detrimental to our health. A heart-to-heart with my doctor, plus research into the way most Americans ate and moved 50 or 75 or 100 years ago vs. today, has gotten me interested in pursing a “vintage” lifestyle of smaller portions, more seasonal and local produce, and fewer processed foods.fat ad

As far as exercise goes, I’m not a gym rat. In fact, I’m about as far from a gym rat as you can get. I’m one of the most uncoordinated people I know. My muscles seem improperly strung and most standard gyms make me feel profoundly ungainly and out-of-place. Plus, I live on a mountainside surrounded by steep hills and endless trails, literally outside my front door. There’s fitness in them thar hills! So for now, with the weather turning nice, rambling over the hills will be my main exercise, along with some simple bodyweight exercises thrown in for strength and flexibility. At some point I may need to join a gym to gain access to certain equipment (and a swimming pool!) but maybe I’ll think about that in the fall. For now, dickering over the gym question would just be one more way to procrastinate.

"Exercise With Gloria" Source: Kevin Dooley via flickr.com/Creative Commons

“Exercise With Gloria”
Source: Kevin Dooley via flickr.com/Creative Commons

My earliest memory of exercise was as a preschooler, moving along with my mom as she watched “Exercise With Gloria” on our old black-and-white TV. I only remember doing this a smattering of times, so I don’t think it caught on with my mother, who was naturally slim and not much of an athlete, although she walked a lot and enjoyed dancing and swimming. Still, I remember the joy of swinging my arms and legs and moving my body, and I did enjoy ballet classes as a very young child, until I switched teachers to a fearsome woman who yelled a lot, and that was the end of my ballet career.

I’m pretty sure that’s the last time I found “exercise” to be fun. School gym class is something I do my best to forget, Nevertheless there are a million and one reasons to “just do it,” as the Nike people say.

fat ad2Because I’ve been immersed in vintage reading materials, doing research for another project, I’ve decided to take a journey this summer, researching old-fashioned health and fitness advice–the good, the bad, the laughable, and the downright cuckoo (tapeworms, anyone?)–and adopting those practices that make sense to me and my doc. I would love to have some companions on the journey! I should state right now that I am not a doctor, nurse, health specialist, exercise guru, nutritional know-it-all, or any other type of professional. Just a woman interested in approaching health and fitness the way it used to be, when it was less of an obsession, and seeing what I learn along the way. If you’d like to join me, or even just offer a word of encouragement, comment below or e-mail me privately at jennifer (at) jenniferlamontleo (d0t) com. Once in a while I’ll report in on this blog and let you know how it’s going.

 

Sparkling Vintage Habits: Rise and Shine!

morning coffee“An ounce of morning is worth a pound of afternoon.” (Traditional proverb)

Last week I kicked off this little habits series with “getting a good night’s sleep” for good reason: to get your reading to experience a Sparkling Vintage morning!

Oh no, I can hear you groaning, she’s going to ask us to get up early!

I’ll confess up front that I am a morning person. I wasn’t always that way–in fact, family members will attest that I used to hate early mornings, especially as a teenager and young adult, but usually that was because I was burning the proverbial candle at both ends. For the past twenty years or so, I’ve found mornings to be the best, most productive part of my day.

So what’s so vintage about getting up early? Pretty much the same thing that’s vintage about getting a good night’s sleep–it’s in keeping with the natural pattern of daylight and nighttime that the human body is designed to work with. It involves slowing down, even for an hour, the rush-rush pace of modern life. Mornings are full of optimism–remember Ronald Reagan’s chipper phrase, “It’s morning in America“?

“Discipline,” writes Richard Shelley Taylor in The Disciplined Life (1962), “will push its possessor out of bed when he yet has time to get to work without rush, which is much better than dawdling another half hour and then regretting it the rest of the day. Or she will make the bed and do the dishes in the morning, rather than allow afternoon hours to find her wishing she had, and maybe in tears because of the neglected housework that suddenly stares her in the face.”

Don’t get me wrong–this is not a sermon about the virtues of rising early. If you’re a natural night-owl or a shift worker, getting up early might be sheer torture for you. I’m not talking about a specific time of day–it’s about how you use the first few hours of your day, whenever they may fall on the clock. If your “morning” starts at 1 p.m., then merely adjust what I’m saying to suit your schedule. If you get a good night’s sleep, the time on the clock doesn’t really matter. It’s your attitude that matters. The point is to try to rise early enough that you move through your daily preparations at an unhurried pace. There’s absolutely zero elegance in racing around like a mad fiend because you’re late and the kids are hungry and you can’t find your car keys and you really should exercise but there’s no time, no time to say hello, goodbye, you’re late, you’re late, you’re late (to paraphrase the White Rabbit).

Okay, that we’ve gotten that out of the way . . .

While reading Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Curry, I was inspired by the many creative, prolific individuals who did their best work within a few hours of rising, including Henry James, Igor Stravinsky, Somerset Maugham, Graham Greene, Maya Angelou, P. G. Wodehouse, Franz Liszt,Franz Schubert, Flannery O’Connor, Victor Hugo, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mark Twain, Willa Cather, and Charles Dickens.

(To be fair, there were plenty of “afternoon people” as well–James Joyce, Samuel Becket, Pablo Picasso, Jean-Paul Sartre, among others–and a fair number of night owls, too, like Marcel Proust, Glenn Gould, and insomniac Louis Armstrong.)

These days my morning routine includes making coffee, reading the Bible, praying, writing in my journal, exercising, and getting myself ready for the day. My husband and I also spend an hour together, drinking coffee, reading aloud, praying together, and just talking. This simple routine starts my day off on the right foot. And the nice thing about having a routine that’s pretty much the same every day is that I don’t have to think too hard. I just do it, and by the time I’ve finished, I’m energized and ready to begin the day.

The specifics aren’t important. Your morning routine might look completely different from mine. The point is, are you making the most of the earliest hours of your day? Are there things you could do to make them more peaceful and productive?

 

Sparkling Vintage Habits: Get a Good Night’s Sleep

sleeping“Sleep, thou that knittest up the ravel’d sleeve of care…” (William Shakespeare, Macbeth)

I’ve been thinking a lot about habits recently. I’m not much of a New-Year’s-resolution-maker, but I do find great value in establishing good habits and dropping unprofitable ones–not just in January, but at any time of year.

One habit that seems to prop up just about everything else in my sparkling-vintage life is a good, old-fashioned night’s sleep. With sufficient sleep, I’m calm, optimistic, pleasant, and productive. Without it, I’m . . . well, none of those things, with a decided lack of sparkle besides. To mangle Shakespeare, let’s just say that without proper sleep, my sleeve of care unravels at warp speed.

In many ways, our ancestors had an easier time of sleeping than we do. Before Mr. Edison unleashed his electrical genius on the world, nighttime meant darkness, and darkness meant sleep. Today, just because the world keeps going 24/7/365 doesn’t mean that we should. Our circadian rhythms benefit from cues like darkness and quiet to help us get the rest we need. A lack of television, computers, and other electronic screens in the olden days was also a boon for sleep. Today our addiction to wireless devices keeps us wired way too far into the night.

In my quest for rest, I toured the Internet to collect words of wisdom to sleep on. Here are some tips to help you slumber like it’s 1899:

*Go to bed in a dark, quiet bedroom. Use a sleep mask if it’s impossible to eliminate all light, and ear plugs if a noisy environment keeps the sandman at bay.

*Develop a nighttime routine to help you settle down and to signal the brain that you’re heading for bed. The specifics are up to you—maybe choose tomorrow’s clothes, wash your face, brush your teeth, smooth on some hand cream, change into sleepwear, read, pray, and do some light stretching exercises. Nothing too strenuous.

*Speaking of sleepwear, do you have something decent to wear to bed? Throwing on any old tee-shirt and sweatpants, while comfy, is not very Sparkling Vintage. And don’t tell me it doesnt matter if “no one sees.” YOU see, and so does your spouse if you’re married, and any housemates you might have. So treat yourself to a pretty nightgown or pajamas in natural fabrics for a comfortable night’s sleep. I like cozy flannel in the winter and crisp cotton in the summer. Some of you slinkier types might appreciate silk. Beware of one-hundred-percent synthetics if you tend to be too warm, too cold, or of an age when you’re prone to hot flashes.

*Did you know that lavender is conducive to sleep? Pour a little lavender oil in a warm bath at bedtime, or put a few drops on a cotton ball and slip it inside your pillowcase.

*Warm milk and chamomile tea are time-honored remedies for wakefulness. Just don’t drink a lot too close to bedtime–you don’t want your slumber to be disturbed by frequent trips to the bathroom. Avoid heavy meals and caffeine late in the day.

*Turn off the TV and other electronic screens at least an hour before bed. The evening news report is not likely to help you relax, anyway. Read, talk with your loved ones, or cuddle up instead.

Nighty-night!

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