I’m enough of a yo-yo artiste that I know bad habits don’t die, they just wait for winter to regroup. Case in point, the last few weeks I’ve been treating my body like a bit of an amusement park, and I can’t be too shocked when I feel like I’m looking into a funhouse mirror.
Still, when, in honor of spring and impending swimsuit season (which, for me, is a misnomer as I rarely wear a swimsuit anywhere), I stepped on the scale this morning, I realized it’s time to get back on the wagon.
Silly Little Love Thong
It was when I was standing in the toothpaste and tampon aisle that I realized that the powers that be will try to sell us on anything.
Why else would the feminine hygiene market be trying to market us on a mini pads for a thong? I don’t know about the rest of my gender, the last thing I’m thinking of during that time of the month, is how I can find a way to wear the most uncomfortable undergarment possible.
I looked down at my own body and admitted there were a lot of days during the month I wouldn’t even consider wearing a thong, and most of those all of those days end with a ‘Y’. And as I snorted in disgust, I almost whispered those dirty words that everyone has uttered at some point in his or her adult life. “I hate my body.”
But I didn’t. I stopped myself. And, as I retreated to the safety of the toothpaste side of that aisle, I knew what they really trying to sell me.
I haven’t said those words more than once in the last six months. I haven’t abandoned them because I’ve lost so much weight that I love the way my body looks. The reality is, that even when I get to my goal weight, I’ll have so much loose skin from childbearing, breast-feeding, and carrying too much weight for too many years that wearing a thong even in private might give my husband reasonable grounds for divorce if his eyes weren’t so bad .
I eschewed the phrase during my first 7 mile run. For some people 7 miles isn’t very far, but for me it was a milestone. I was huffing and puffing the whole way, and when I realized the last part of my race would be uphill, I felt the words rising. I hate my body.
My feet became dead weights, and I slowed. It was as if my were body rebelling against the arrows I had just slung.
“What have I done?” It was asking me. “What have I done except carry you the last 40-odd years while giving you two healthy children – all without complaint? You have neglected me. You have gorged and let me grow weak, and I have served you anyway”
I came to a complete stop and looked down. It was right. If my body doesn’t perform to my expectations it’s because I haven’t treated it with respect.
That’s been changing over the last few months with better nutrition and exercise. But the change is not only physical. When I selected goal weight, it was not based on a jean size, it was based on a healthy BMI for my age. And I’ve come to realize that if I don’t love my body – at every size – how can I expect it to love me enough to carry me into old age and do the things that a body is supposed to do?
So maybe if they make a thong that’s comfortable for me and my body, I’d go for it. But what was for sale on that shelf in the toothpaste and tampon aisle, I’m no longer willing to buy.
Tales from the Scale
Forgive me scale for I have really sinned. It’s been at least a week since my last confession.
Before I step on, however, I just want to say that even though my sins are too numerous to list within the next hour – the last week has been a nutritional blur – I have stuck to my fitness plan like a champion (the running part that is). With that in mind, I hope you’ll agree with me that you shouldn’t raise the numbers too high and that maybe you can give me a pass for listing maple syrup as a serving of vegetables (it comes from a plant, after all).
I’m ready to do some penance, and I really appreciate you keeping the pounds even. I promise I’ll lay off the crisps and pies for the next few weeks, but I just have to say that while the running rules, dieting sucks.
The Things I’ve Lost
Tuesday was momentous. I finished cleaning out my office. You can now enter the room without signing a waiver of liability in the event that one of my stacks of books or supplies or other-crap-that-gets-tossed-in-the-office-when-we-don’t-have-time-to-find-the-right-place-for-it.
Wednesday my office became a multi-purpose work and workout room when I moved a weight bench into the briefly empty space along the back wall. About 5 minutes into setting it up, however, I realized it was missing something very important – weights. I added their acquisition to the to do list for the next morning.
Thursday, I stepped on the scale, hoping I’d hit the forty pound mark, and I crowed. Forty-one point six (I do count the points). Then I headed to the grocery store for necessities and capped of my trip to town with a visit to Kmart, hoping they’d sell the round weight plates I’d need. I only wanted a pair of pairs of 5 and 10 pound weights – Schwarzenegger I’m not – but the only thing that came close was a 40 pound box of round weights on sale for $25.
I grabbed the plastic tape that was holding the box together and hoisted it to the top of the shopping cart. It wasn’t back-breakingly heavy, but I couldn’t imagine carrying it from the back of the store to the front. I slid the box from the top of the cart to the bottom, setting down my load and laughed, ignoring the puzzled look of the nearby stock clerk.
I still carry plenty of stuff in my head wherever I go, but thinking about the plastic tape-wrapped box I’d lost kept me smiling through the rest of the day.
What is it about the colder days that makes bread need butter to be nourishing? What is it about the roads littered with leaves that sparks the craving for something hot and chocolatey?
I’ve been so good all summer, and while I’m still kicking it up on the exercise wagon, the numbers on the scale refused to budge for the last week or two. It’s no great mystery. I’ve been indulging. Cottage cream ice cream over apple crumb pie to celebrate the Big Guy’s birthday, a few days of stress-induced gluttony, and the only thing keeping the numbers on the scale from climbing is the fact that my exercise plan is often my only downtime – a fact that keeps it alive and well.
It’s another part of the game. The exercise is easy. It feels good when you’re doing it. If feels good when you’ve done it. It’s kind of like sex without consequences. But keeping up the calorie count – is there ever a time when it feels good when you’re doing it?
There are recipes that can make you think the calorie counting feels good because it tastes good, but the fretting is only rewarded on the scale in the morning. When it’s still dark at 5:30 in the morning, it’s hard to see those numbers at all, and the aroma wafting from that calorie-laden bowl of peanut-butter oatmeal wraps around me like a hug – softly strangling my willpower.
A few weeks ago, we threw out a ton of stuff. I don’t mean we threw out a lot of stuff. I mean we threw out 1 Ton of stuff. The Big Guy and I filled a one ton container with odds and ends we’d collected over our seventeen years together, and, I’m ashamed to say, we’ll probably be able to do it again in another month. I don’t mean to imply that our house is filled with trash, but the purge was a stark reminder that I need to look before I leap more often.
A week earlier, I had queried my writing group as to whether or not I should put some of my doodles on T-Shirts. I had an idea, not just to make money off my work, but for a line of fitness wear and T’s for plus-size women (google “plus size fitnesswear” and you’ll see there’s a market there for someone). This particular leap was inspired a sour grapes moment that resulted in my own fruitless search for running wear, and the first few responses were encouraging.
The Big Guy is always encouraging, and I began researching ‘how to print your own T-shirts’. When I the writing group page later in the day, however, a-look-before-the-leap had appeared. It was from our group’s fearless leader:
“I would finish your stories,” it said. “Then move on to other projects”
I was still determined to have something fun and different for my first race in 3 years, and I had a few pieces of T-shirt iron-on paper, but the words “Finish your stories” stayed in my head the rest of the day and the rest of the weekend.
I made my T-shirt and put a few up on CafePress (just for fun), but with the race behind me, and pre-holiday fall cleaning in front of us, I knew the last thing I needed was one more project or hobby – however good an idea it might seem. Filling that one ton container was suddenly more than a way to de-clutter our house. It was a reminder that to win the important battles, I needed to stop collecting projects and just finish the ones that matter.
Back on the Horse
Last weekend I fell of the wagon and fell hard.
Knowing there was a party at the end of the day, I decided to take a day off from fitness and counting calories and label reading. I’ve been pretty good for most of the last month, and even though I told myself not to say never-ever to treats, ever was supposed to be limited to three bites. Saturday I took three huge bites.
The first bite was the veggie breakfast burrito which could only be considered healthy because of the word vegetable in it. The second was a hiatus from any exercise. And the third was an evening devoted to eating local corn dogs and fries at the dairy bar and then from the freezer case at the local country store.
My three non-regulation sized bites left me with a whopping hangover, making me all too-aware of the fact that ice cream would not be a performance enhancing drug for my morning workout. But I knew I had to workout. My sister has already signed us up for a 5K in Connecticut at the end of the summer, and, even though I’m doing the 3 miles regularly now, I know I need to keep doing those three miles if I want to not come in second to last (it has happened).
Getting back on the diet wagon always seems harder than getting back on the fitness wagon. I’ve been doing South Beach and then found my way to the Forks Over Knives plant-based way of eating, and the recipes on both have been phenomenal. I can’t really say my taste buds been deprived the last few months, but empty calories can be so darned delicious, and my new morning meal, usually so satisfying, didn’t have quite the same appeal on Sunday morning.
By about the middle of my strength training, however, I had found my way back onto the fitness wagon, and there’s a reason for this. There’s something about running and lifting weights that gives you instant satisfaction in a way that eating less simply can’t. The farther you run or swim or climb, the harder you push, the more your body becomes a temple, and the better you want to treat it. Right now, mine still looks a lot like a temple to a paunchy goddess of vice, but it gets a little more solid every day, but it isn’t the penance at the scale that keeps me going.
Off the Couch
I’ve coveted a lot this summer: a smaller pair of jeans, a stronger body, a more active lifestyle, and that really cool running tank to wear for my first 5K in three years. I checked most of the things off my wish list by getting fit enough to finish the afore-mentioned 5K. However, while getting able to complete those 3.1 miles did indeed let me squeeze into a smaller jean size and a more active lifestyle, it didn’t shrink my body small enough to access the work of fitness high fashion.
As I was reminded during my search for the perfect tank top, an XL at the discount store is not an XL in fitness (or designer) wear. I could have worn one of my old t-shirts, but the race was a family tradition that was being revived. I wanted something special.
I traipsed through online and offline offerings, rarely finding anything above an L or XL that didn’t fit or look more like and M. I was losing hope. I’d sweated all summer. Surely something in either of my sizes – old or new – wasn’t too much to ask. There’s every other option for active women, right down to a plunging, push-up sports-bra (still scratching my head trying to find the competitive advantage of THAT feature), but there was little for larger women who want to get off the couch (as we’re always told to do) and into activity.
So this year I did what I once did when I was too broke for store bought. I made my own. I’ve been finding my own groove this year. It’s off the couch, and dancing to that beat has done a lot more than just make me smaller. It’s made me stronger and happier and even more productive. So I made a shirt to celebrate this new life off the couch. It’s a change you should be able to celebrate at any size.
I’m putting my designs where my mouth is CafePress.com. You can find T-shirts and a few other items in sizes to fit most from 0-5X.
The Numbers Game
243 was the number on the scale Monday May 25, 2013.
1412 was the number of calories to eat each day to lose 2 1/2 pounds each week.
15 seconds was the longest I could run without stopping.
22 was the number on the label inside my jeans.
6 is the number of times I had to run day 1 of my fitness program before I could finish it.
2 is the number of kids who were depending on me to be strong enough to take care of them.
24 is the number of runs I’ve done since the first time I actually got through a routine.
9 is the number of weeks I’ve been counting calories.
12 is the number of days I slipped up on a vacation 14 days long, and
18 is the number of days in the last month I behaved – for the most part.
3.68 is the number of miles I ran yesterday without stopping.
1282 was the number of calories allowed on the calorie counter yesterday, and
209 may still be a big number on a frame that’s only 63 inches high, but it’s the sum of a summer of small but meaningful successes.
At the beginning of the summer, I could barely walk up the hill of our 900 hundred foot driveway without stopping to get more air. For most of the spring, I rationalized my 'performance' with the excuse that I had started the year with pneumonia. Knowing that not moving was worsening my lung condition didn't get me off the couch until late night chest pains sent me to the hospital for stress tests.
The long-tern lung infection was to blame for the chest pain, but I knew my deep and gorgeous hunger (as Cary Grant might describe it) and less gorgeous physical sloth were not helping my lungs get any better. So, as I sat in the doctor's office, watching him tap a place on my chart where I had been about 50 pounds lighter, I got to my tipping point.
A few years ago, I had another similar moment of Zen that led to a summer of good nutrition and walking. I let myself get stymied at the end (something I've already moved to prevent this year) by shortening days and a bad attitude, but I remembered that the biggest changes began when I started running. This time around, I decided to start the running with the eating plan, and taking the two roads together has made all the difference, and in a way I never would have expected.
I started very slowly using a plan that had worked three summers earlier (C25K from Runner's World – try it, it works). The plan starts you with 30 second runs followed by 90 second walks and repeats until you've been run/walking for 30-35 minutes. I am not proud to say that at the beginning of the summer, I had trouble making it once around our house or even trotting for 30 seconds. Yesterday (a few days before Labor Day), I ran 3.68 miles with hills and no stopping. Part of me wishes I could say I did it all by myself, but along the way I discovered something even more valuable than my little app. I discovered encouragement.
My first runs were always on our sloping driveway and around our bumpy yard. I was embarrassed to have anyone see how slowly I ran. Then I mentioned my new plan to my sister who's currently getting ready for a 20K. She didn't ask my times. She didn't ask if I thought I could do it. She just gave me a verbal pat on the back and said, “Keep going. I'll get us signed up for the Labor Day 5K.”
We've run the the 5K together before, and, to her credit, she ran with me the first time – giving encouragement the whole way. Then, I was very conscious of the faster runners that seemed to flow around us like gazelles cutting swaths around a slow-moving elephant. Now, I barely notice it.
In the last few months, I've begun to notice more runners on the road. I've seen them in all shapes and sizes. I see slower ones and faster ones. When I'm running, we wave at each other. When I'm driving, sometimes I'll honk or yell, “Go for it!” at them whether the windows are up or down.
They're all doing it, and when I talk with other people I know who've been running or even just started, we never compare times. We talk about going the distance. We talk about how far we've come. The women who've traveled farther share their acquired wisdom with those of us who are at the beginning of the journey. The times matter, but I never feel like I'm competing with someone else – I'm only competing with my old time.
So, if you're running (or walking) on the road, and a strange lady passes you, shouting at you to keep up the good work, she is nuts. But I've decided that if you've started your journey – no matter where you are on it – you are doing good work. And that deserves encouragement, so I'm passing it on.
What You Don’t See
Dear Mr. Retailer,
You carry my old size, but you never carry it in the store because you see my wallet, but, apparently you don't want to see me (or the other thousands of American women who you ask to order online rather than come in your store to shop). But I'm eating better and working out, and my body's getting stronger and tighter. Now I even wear one of the coveted sizes you do carry in the store, but I don't think I'll be back.
You see there were places that did want me as well as my business when I was bigger. They saw not only a person who was fighting the battle of the bulge and needed a uniform, they saw something more. They saw the person that can afford to buy your plus sizes because she has an income. They saw the person who finances the wardrobes of her non-plus-sized kids in the same store. They saw a person worth doing business with.
So, now that I can get into your clothes, it's tempting to be part of the crowd you do see – that part of the crowd that doesn't have to special order the sizes you're too embarrassed to carry in the store because someone 'unfit' might be caught browsing there. But while your clothes may hang better on my body, a retailer who couldn't see me as a person when I was larger, just isn't a good fit for me now that I'm getting smaller.