By: Lynda Hollenbeck
A renewed emphasis on healthy living currently prevails at the Saline Courier office.
This started when 11 employees bonded in an effort to reduce body mass index, lose weight and generally adapt a healthier way of living.
This is in marked contrast to the old days here when you could bring in anything close to edible, slap it down on a communal counter top and watch it start to disappear before you got back to your desk.
But this is a new day. The fitness zealots have changed the scene dramatically.
I've admired them from afar as they go through their weekly weigh-ins and BMI checks. They've even been bold enough to have these numbers recorded on a chart and posted on the wall.
Public embarrassment of this nature isn't for me. I don't even weigh at my doctor's office. I consider such information classified, and as long as my clothes fit, I forgo the scales.
I am all for exercise, however, and for years didn't miss a day. My usual time to go through the jumping jacks, sit-ups and push-ups was morning. It got me off to a peppy start to the day and I knew it was good for me. It wasn't much fun, but at one time I could do 100 sit-ups without suffering audibly.
Eventually, I found a more entertaining way to get my daily fitness by doing "Dancercizes" with TV's Debbie Drake. This had more appeal for me since I've always been a dancer of sorts.
This sort of evolved naturally for me because my mother had been an exercise zealot, subscribing to the teachings of Jack LaLanne, one of the first televised fitness gurus to appeal to ordinary folk.
Before Jack, though, there was bodybuilder Charles Atlas. Everyone knew what he looked like — you rarely picked up a magazine that didn't include an ad showing him flexing his muscles — but he didn't appeal to the ordinary person like Jack did.
When Jack died at 96, he was still exercising. Coincidentally, my mother lived to be the same age, although her health didn't permit her to be active in her final years.
Like many people I've known, though, Mamma was always going to "lose five pounds." I've had friends with similar goals who will continually tell you that they have "lost XX pounds."
If a running total ever existed for some of these, the actual weight loss would put them into the minus category. It's a little like the big fish that got away ... but then maybe it serves as an incentive and there's merit in that.
As part of Mamma's health routine, she kept a diet candy around. Called Ayds, these were caramel-flavored squares that closely resembled Kraft caramels.
These were intended to be appetite suppressants, but they didn't work that way for my friend Rosemary and me. We would munch on them after school as we sat around our kitchen table drinking sugar-laden Coca-Colas in the squatty green bottles. Talk about your mixed metaphors.
The most fun I've ever had in an exercise routine was taking part in a tap dancing class taught by Laura Stilwell. Although I'm rusty, I still remember some of the steps, including the time step, which I mastered by practicing it repeatedly in my kitchen.
I've never been particularly impressed by all the exercise machines and complicated stuff that's out there today, although I readily concede that these can bring positive results.
It's just that I come from the old-school style of exercise where the instructors used simple props like a towel or a chair or maybe a jump rope. You don't have to create much space for such as this, which is compatible with my lifestyle.
Of course, there is one notable exception in my exercise repertoire. There was the time that friend/neighbor Mary Helen Bush and I ordered some sort of plastic leg get-ups that were intended to give us movie-star-like legs.
You would strap these things onto your thighs and then inflate them before doing specific exercises.
It was necessary to use the vacuum cleaner to blow them up, which was an ordeal in itself.
I don't know any adjective to adequately describe the sight of the two of us in these get-ups.
My best attempt is to say we looked like rejects from astronaut training.
I should have stuck to dancing.
Lynda Hollenbeck is senior editor of The Saline Courier.