Why fitness? Groceries, New Zealand and zombies. That's why.
I can't believe I've made it this far without talking about the milestone I'm celebrating this year.
Because 2018 is the 10th anniversary of the Fittest Loser contest, all the participants are marking some sort of occasion this year -- wedding, vow renewal, class reunion and more.
Me? I'm turning 50 at the end of December.
But how can that be? I vividly remember seeing Pearl Jam playing at Lollapalooza in 1992 at like 2 in the afternoon, because they weren't really popular yet (Stone Temple Pilots was on a side stage that year).
I remember the Challenger exploding when I was in high school, the Berlin Wall coming down when I was away at college and Nixon resigning the summer before I started kindergarten (I was news-obsessed even as a kid).
None of those things seem that long ago, right?
But they kind of were. So here I am, like much of Generation X, about to mark a half-century on this planet. And if I'm being honest, that was my No. 1 reason for saying yes to the Fittest Loser challenge again.
I remember a time when 50 seemed so old to me. But as I'm approaching this milestone birthday, I definitely don't feel old (except for carrying three types of OTC painkillers with me at all times, being super concerned about moisturizer and having kind of creaky joints). I feel like I have so much life ahead of me, and there is so much I want to do.
Among other things, I've never been to New Zealand or visited the Ben & Jerry's factory in Vermont (which better have a hospitality room). I've also somehow never seen Bruce Springsteen play live, despite being a fan since grade school. I've never owned a Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress or spent a stupid amount of money on a completely un-sensible pair of shoes. I also am lucky enough to have a job I love, and I'd like to be able to keep doing it for a long time.
I mean, sure, I want to lose weight and look better. Who doesn't? More than anything, though, I want to be fit and healthy so I can do all these things and more.
How terrible would it be to fly 18 hours to New Zealand and spend all my time napping in the hotel room? Or get Springsteen tickets and decide he's playing too late at night? No thanks.
And besides all the things I want to do, there's also just regular daily life.
I need to be able to carry groceries, shovel snow, climb stairs and keep up with my boyfriend, Brian, who not only is seven years younger than me but also is one of those permanently caffeinated people (YOU GUYS, HE IS SO PEPPY).
I'd also love to keep my no-broken-bones streak going, like, forever, and dodge all my genetic bullets, especially diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Plus, if pop culture has taught me nothing else, the zombie apocalypse is coming, and I have to do cardio to prepare.
As much as I wish I could make this all happen by eating pizza and Oreos and just sitting and reading for hours, I realistically know that's not true. That diet -- which I followed for way too long -- makes me feel sick (literally!) and so sluggish.
And while I may complain about the exercise from time to time (Boot camp is too early! Why are kettlebells? SO. MANY. LUNGES. Ow, my knees!) there is something so exciting about even the smallest improvements, whether it's finally kicking up the treadmill a notch, deadlifting a little more or even just hitting my step goal for the day.
A healthy diet and plenty of exercise will go a long way toward helping me live the life I want -- and not dread turning 50.
• Melynda Findlay is a multiplatform editor at the Daily Herald, where she's worked for 19 years. She definitely doesn't want to end up as zombie chow, so cardio it is!
Melynda Findlay, 49, Arlington HeightsStarting weight: 226
Current weight: 210
Weight lost this week: 4 pounds
Total weight lost: 16 pounds
Total percentage lost: 7 percent