Tuesday, July 17, 2012
This may be a bit premature, since I'm still 8 pounds over my healthy BMI cutoff, but I'm definitely feeling healthy and fit these days. I'm comfortably wearing a size 12 and am almost at a 10. I've lost 49 pounds and am hoping that I'll be at an even 50 at my next weigh in. I'm running 3x/week and cross training 2-3 other days. My long runs are up to 5.5 miles, and I have two 10k races coming up in the fall. My blood pressure is regularly between 110-120 over 65-70. So, these are the credentials I'm using to justify that I am no longer fat.
This is what I've realized: no longer being fat is really a process of recovery, physically but also emotionally and psychologically. I didn't realize how much having a "fat mindset" had impacted me. I've never been in recovery from alcohol or other drugs, but from friends I understand that a big part of it is recognizing how the chemicals warped your thinking patterns and trying to decolonize your mind. As part of that process, here's what I've noticed about how I used to think when I was fat:
When I was fat...I used to assume that I couldn't do it. Going on a hike, trying the wall at the rock climbing gym, doing a triathlon--all these were opportunities I had that I turned down. I got into the habit of automatically saying no, because I'd had a couple of embarrassing incidents (not being able to hold my own weight on the zip line at the pool for more than a few seconds and splashing into the pool from a huge height comes to mind as an example that stung, both physically and psychically). But there were many more things that I could have done that I just didn't try. Now, my default mode is, "Sure, why not?" When a friend called asking if I wanted to run a 5k race with her the next day, it was fun to be able to say, "Yeah, sure!"
When I was fat...I didn't try to make myself attractive. I just gave up, figuring "What's the use?" I only got my hair cut once a year, stopped coloring it, didn't wear makeup or nail polish or pluck my eyebrows or shave my legs. Not that I do all those things now (as a feminist, I'm philosophically opposed to some of these things a uncomfortable with others), but I at least care about how I look and actually like seeing my reflection in the mirror or passing my reflection in a window. I am wearing my wedding rings again, wearing earrings, and have bought clothes that I like, not just ones that will engulf me as amorphously as possible.
When I was fat...I avoided sex. Honestly, why would my partner want anything to do with me? I felt so ashamed, like I had let him down by not being the person he married. A few pounds would not have been a big deal, but the 70 pounds that I packed on in 12 years (when he is the same weight and very athletic) seemed like a bit of a "bait and switch." He was always great about it, telling me how much he loved me and being very affectionate. But I just couldn't stand myself, so I made excuses. It's still something I'm getting used to again, but now, I actually look forward to sex and am not constantly self conscious about how many of my tummy rolls he can see.
When I was fat...I was hopeless and constantly fed myself excuses. I felt like there was nothing I could do, like I'd tried everything, like I was just going to have to settle for being fat for the rest of my life. I told myself things like, "Well, there are a lot of people who are fat. In fact, a lot of the older women I work with are 50+ pounds overweight. It's kind of normal. That's just how I'm going to get older," or "Not everyone has to be fit and healthy. There are a lot of nice things to enjoy when you just sit--like watching people go by or reading a book," or "It's my genes to be fat. There's nothing I can do about it, so I might was well get used to it." Not surprisingly, this hopeless, passive attitude seeped into every nook and cranny of my life, and I found myself just letting lots of things happen TO me, rather than taking control. Since I've started losing weight, I've quit my job, gone back to graduate school, and am thinking about helping my husband launch a small business. Now, I assume that things are possible rather than impossible. I look forward to the day, wondering what's ahead.
When I was fat...I was constantly thinking about food, my body, and my health. I have written another blog about how I structured my life around food, so I won't go into detail here, other than to say I ate what I wanted whenever I wanted and had no "off" switch, even when I was full. I didn't binge per se, I just regularly and openly ate more than I needed to of food that was not very healthy for me, and when I wasn't eating I was thinking about what I would be eating, cooking, feeding other people, or feeling guilty about what I had eaten. I avoided the scale and had long periods were I was in denial and never thought about my weight, but I was always aware of my body, and all the ways in which I didn't like it--the hangy-downy chin, the jiggly arms, the mottled thighs, the bulge over my waist of my pants (which I addressed by transitioning only to elastic waisted pants). I was also constantly worried about my health, going to the doctor for heart palpitations, a possible blocked artery in my leg, and back problems. None of these things ended up being anything serious, but I was so aware of the fact that I was making myself sick with my habits. I told myself, "Well, those people who eat less may live longer, but they're denying themselves now. I'd rather live a shorter life and really enjoy it by eating what I want, which is something I really enjoy." Of course, I was so miserable I wasn't really enjoying myself at all. The fleeting enjoyment of the taste of the food was short-lived, and the potential for debilitating health concerns was looming. Not only was I facing not living as long, but also not as actively and with more pain and limitations. I actually got to the point where I said to myself, "Well, if I need to, I can always get one of those little scooters if I have a hard time getting around." Needless to say, today I don't see a little scooter in my future anytime soon. I do still think about my health, but it's in a positive way--tracking how much I've exercised or thinking about how I can push my workouts. I am actually looking forward to going to the doctor and getting a "gold star."
When I was fat...I had no energy. Let's face it, I was probably depressed. I slept a lot, I stayed at home, and I felt like a blob. I asked my kids to go get me things, especially if it was downstairs or upstairs, I drove everywhere and tried not to have to walk as much a possible. I thought about things that had to be done--gardening, unpacking boxes, etc. and just cringed. I ignored what had to be done or asked my husband to do it. Now, I have a spring in my step and so much energy! I just spent a morning doing yard work and am now wondering what else I can accomplish around here today. I bring up ideas for our family to do together and make them happen, like biking to the community pool, biking to a concert in the park, or walking to a nearby lake to go for a swim. I'm getting back to my energizer bunny personality and reclaiming the role of the one in the family who comes up with ideas and who sets goals. Our life seems so much more full and fun.
One thing I know about recovery is that it's never over. You don't just one day get to be recovered--you have to continually monitor your thinking and work your program in order to stay in recovery. Relapses may happen, and in fact they are part of recovery. But if I can keep these benefits of being in recovery in mind and do the things that keep me in recovery (especially exercise!), I know I can keep reaping these benefits.