By LMQC Battle of the Bulge blogger, Alan Sivell, St. Ambrose communications professor, RAGBRAI-er, pizza lover and longtime weight watcher.
These days, my 53-year-old colleague, Eileen Eitrheim, Bettendorf, runs marathons and trains 60-70 miles a week. She puts most of us to shame. But just 2½ years ago, Eileen was so out of shape that she woke up one morning and couldn’t get out of bed.
“I felt like I had sandbags weighing down all my limbs,” she says. “I couldn’t move.”
Eileen knew she was seriously overweight. More than 100 pounds over. But the morning’s incident unnerved her. She struggled in to see her doctor.
“She said I should get ready for disabilities within 2 years unless I made some serious changes in my diet and started exercising.”
That scared her. But Eileen was busy. She is the marketing director of St. Ambrose University’s Galvin Fine Arts Center, and has an active teenager who needs transportation to activities. She didn’t think she could carve the time out of her schedule to exercise.
“But then I remembered hearing that it took 6 weeks to break a habit and 3 weeks to form a habit,” Eileen said. “And rather than focus on breaking bad habits – that would take too long – I turned it around and focused on forming good habits.”
So Eileen decided she would start moving everyday – for 3 minutes.
“It’s what I could do. And I didn’t have to change clothes to do it,” she said, laughing. “I wasn’t going to work up a sweat in 3 minutes.”
Soon, a new habit was formed and Eileen looked forward to going downstairs to get on her elliptical or bike. It became her “me” time. And she began staying on the machines for longer than 3 minutes.
A month into her lifestyle change, Eileen made the change to her diet she knew she needed to make. She started – believe it or not – on Thanksgiving Day.
The following spring she began running and by fall she ran her first marathon.
Since the morning she couldn’t move 2½ years ago, Eileen has dropped more than 100 pounds. She says she found what works for her.
“I still snack, “ she says. “I still have a piece of dark chocolate everyday. But I find other snack substitutes. Because you can’t cheat. You only cheat yourself. You have accountability to yourself.”
Eileen says she uses all the modern technical gizmos to help her fitness journey, including a fitness tracker and a calorie counting app on her phone. And she says getting enough sleep is another key to her success.
Finding the time to exercise – the time to form a good habit – has changed Eileen’s life.