A year ago I found out I was a diabetic. It was discovered during a routine checkup but I wasn’t entirely surprised because my weight had been climbing steadily for a few years, even though I thought my eating habits were good.

I cooked healthy meals, rarely ate fried foods or desserts, didn’t drink alcohol or soda. And not that much meat either – actually I wasn’t that far away from being an ovo-lacto vegetarian. I was eating ‘whole’ foods like eggs, butter, milk, cream and cheese, believing these foods to be healthier than the alternatives. I still believe butter is better for the body than the alternatives, but clearly there was a better choice for me.

Since I was not interested in taking medication I needed to make a dramatic life change. The first thing I did was to go completely vegetarian. Dropping the dairy made a huge difference and my body weight began dropping steadily. When I went back for my next checkup my blood sugars were normal. My doctor didn’t use the words ‘reversing diabetes’ that you hear these days, she just said I was managing the condition by my lifestyle.

It wasn’t just my diet however. The second big life change was to fully commit myself to Nia which I had been doing for about six months.  I went to a Nia jam (a group of teachers who co-teach a Nia routine) and one of the teachers was a woman who, in her 70’s clearly had a body age much younger than mine. Her agility and grace was beautiful and inspiring, and I decided right then and there that was for me. My next step was to sign up for the next Nia White Belt training in Victoria. Meanwhile I continued to lose weight and ‘prepare the vessel’.

My goal was to do Nia at least 5 times a week and to do it I needed to firmly put the intention out there, and also put my money where my mouth was. My job was going to be to teach Nia: there is nothing like the knowledge that you have to stand up in front of a class to motivate a person into action. 

Now that I have enough routines under my belt to comfortably get going as a Nia trainer, my job description needs to be adjusted. Though I have a half a dozen new routines on my shelf to learn, it is becoming easy to relax into the work I put in over the past six months. Being a writer, it often only feels like I am working when I’m sat in front of my keyboard.

“If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” E.B. White

It is still hard for me to grasp that doing Nia is really my job. Not preparing for a class and learning a routine which can be a lot of start and stop, just ‘taking’ a class for the pleasure of it. Surely, the little gremlin on my shoulder tells me, dancing is what you do after your ‘real’ work is finished, right?  The problem is that work expands to fill the amount of time available. And also if you don’t tell yourself that getting moving is more important than anything else you might do, it will be pushed aside and rationionalised.  

So clearly we need a new vision where play comes first. Like saving money by paying yourself first, we become fit for life by making fitness come first. I’ve learned several things about fitness. One is that it has to be enjoyable. If you aren’t having a good time, sooner or later you’ll fall off the wagon. It has happened to me many times, good intentions swept aside.

Secondly, in a study on what made people happy into their elder years it wasn’t money or lifestyle that was the most important, but health and mobility. It is possible the two are related – that those who have a certain level of wealth and a certain lifestyle have more time to spend on keeping fit. But it needn’t necessarily follow. Though certainly we are all busy, many of the things we do are by choice – watching television for example, or playing games on the computer. When these things are social (that is, time spent with family) I think that’s great, but when we do them alone those activities are time-thieves.

My goal is to be fit for rest of my life, however long that may be, and also have a high enough level of health and fitness to enjoy that life. I found my way through Nia and I invite you to give it a try. No class near you? No problem! Nia has 4 routines you can buy and do at home, or gather a few friends together and have a Nia party. Maybe you will even become inspired to take the white belt training and bring Nia to your community!

© Deborah Redfern, 2011. All rights reserved.

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