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Magic Numbers, Loss and the Illusion of Choice

Saturday, July 13, 2013

I recently turned 27 and have been thinking a lot lately about how embodiment is a strange thing. When I think back on the life I have lived so far, I can't remember much of a time when I DIDN'T feel consumed by the desire to be skinny, to exist in a certain body and therefore do certain things. I can really see certain ways in which I put off living because I hadn't figured out how to get that skinny body yet -always thinking, "later, later, later I will be able to wear the clothes i really liked that they don't make in my always larger size, later I will be "eligible" for romantic relationships, later I will start living my life." In a lot of ways I have lived despite of my body and had eye opening experiences that contained an additional element of seeing myself do the things i always assumed were classified- I ran races and biked across the country and experienced what it was like to do it in a body (MY body!) that didn't look so much like the majority of others out there and to feel awed and proud of that, surprised, delighted even. i took risks, and I saw my body changing because of it. I did get into a romantic relationship at one point despite my body not having yet morphed into my ideal, and experienced the things I always thought was reserved or would be better for people who looked "better."

When I think back to who I was just a few years ago when I found SparkPeople and was motivated by its novelty and the community I was making, it became my primary source of joy as I negotiated life's challenges that I am learning will always be there alongside whatever else you are trying to build, create, imagine, and realize. I joined the site following my first big breakup and broken heart, and I was at the highest weight of my life: 285. At that time, something somehow clicked and I began to work on my running goals and commit to myself. I think in a way it had to do with the loss of my relationship- I didn't have a choice, so I turned inward and began to put my energy onto myself as I tried to heal my heart because I had no where else to put it. I needed the distraction, the feeling of being in control of something, the positivity that would come with success and on-scale and off-scale victories. I found that I really began to live life and it blew my mind and fed me spiritually - I remember taking this on a whim trip to New York City in nothing but my running clothes and just going for a run and then flying home, running a route in the shape of my name on my birthday, meeting new friends that filled me up with joy and belonging and challenged me to reach for my dreams.... I was present in my life through my pursuits of getting fit.

I can't understand why when things can be that good, fulfilling, happy-making why we ever let it go and slip back into old ways - binge eating, avoiding exercise, self-shaming, letting ourselves feel more and more hopeless as time goes on and we don't peel ourselves off our couches or beds to engage in our dreams or goals? what is it about my fat unengaged body that works for me? It makes no logical sense... why don't I stick with the stuff that I have proven to myself has made me really happy and brought me to life - the running, the consciousness, the reaching for goals, the optimism for the future as I want to define and create it?

I think in some ways things get in the way and my own poor coping skills have allowed me to prioritize the stuff that gives me anxiety in the past year (making a major move to chicago, searching for months for full time employment, worry about bills, etc) and then I don't have energy left to put into exercising because I am too busy convincing myself that I "don't have time" when i needed to apply for jobs (ridiculous), and i see myself spend way too much time on the internet which i think was a big distraction for me from my emotions and struggles.

Now I am in a similar experience as I was when I had my first break up, and strangely, I am at the same magic weight - 285. I have been desiring and desiring for months to get back on track, obsessively think about it, try to plan for it but have just been completely unmotivated, unwilling in some subconscious and conscious ways. The thought of "I'll do it later" was so strong in my every day mental dialogue. Then suddenly, my best friend passed away. I've been going through the grief process, and have arrived at that feeling again of facing something you have no choice in and I am floundering. I know I need to start putting energy back into my own wellbeing or I will not make it. What the hell does that even mean, "I'll do it later?"

The only choice we have every day we continue to wake up is to take risks. You don't have a choice about what the weather will be like, what the people around you in your morning commute will be like, what is going to appear on the evening news. You can choose your risks accordingly to the perceived level of consequence- what clothes you will wear to work, what to have for lunch, speeding, quitting your job to start a new business. I think maybe the risk of weight loss for someone who has never experienced the skinny body that possesses my fantasies, it is hard to take the risk all the way because i don't know what level of "consequence" it will have. will changing my body change who I am in essence, and how? what will my life be like in all the ways beyond what i physically look like? will people treat me differently than they have, and will I know how to manage or handle that?

I read an article on Forbes about risks and this part stood out to me:

"Ronald Heifetz, professor at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, likes to say that if you make one real decision in your life, that’s more than most people. Taking a real risk? Well, that’s just a rarity.

That’s because making real decisions and taking real risks requires freedom–freedom from the loyalties, expectations and fears that inevitably fog our risk-vs.-reward equation. “Peoples’ choices to take or refrain from risk are over-determined by their culture,” notes Heifetz."

The article also makes the point that all the people they interviewed (celebrities, powerful business people, athletes, etc) all said the same common thought: "The biggest risk is not taking any risk at all." And I wondered about that.

If I don't take this risk of losing weight and once and for all changing my life in terms of eating and fitness, I risk my health, my future, my livelihood. I risk not knowing what my life could be like, and I got a glimpse a few years ago on here when I managed to go from 285 to 220 after a lot of hard work, openmindedness, and patience/ diligence. If it was that bright and beautiful, then what could it be like if I accomplish my goals to get my weight in control once and for all and live the rest of my life maintaining? What would I fill my mind up with instead of the hours and hours a day I think about my "defective" body?

I joined a four week challenge thanks to MAMADELIGHT, and I am using it as a reset button. That is where I start. My only other commitment right now is that I will go to sleep earlier (by 9PM) in order to get up earlier and have time to use to pack lunch, prepare for working out either before or after work, to minimize the energy it will take to actually DO IT.) Planning ahead really works for me and I know that from my previous experiences. I want to blog every day, even if the posts are brief, to get myself back into the routine and build my rhythm. I am going to end this post here so I have some time to do some exercise and cleaning before going to work but there is a lot more I want to write - especially about "choice" and where I'm at and where I want to go.

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    First of all, you are so beautiful. Really...you are! And how beautiful that you have decided to hit the reset button as it were and take a different kind of risk....a risk to LIVE and be a healthier you. Hope we can be Spark buddies cus' I'm on the same journey and...I have my very first 5k in October. I'm completely excited and freaked out about it all at the same time. I agree with Baddogg....it's going to be exciting hearing about the new adventures that lie ahead of you.
    1742 days ago
    You are wise and amazing and deeply encouraging to me as I put the shovel down and stop digging myself further into a relapse to unhealthy living.

    I'm so glad you had some of the experiences we can be tempted to put off until we're the "right" weight.

    I'm kind of speechless after reading your blog.

    emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon
    1763 days ago
    I completely understand all of this in ways I'm sure you know.

    Sometimes I feel like I don't have the energy to put into exercise and weight loss and then I'm wondering: is it BECAUSE I'm not doing it that I don't have the energy to do it?

    You're amazing, my dear, and ya know I love ya. I think you're beautiful at any size but what's important is that you're healthy and happy. I don't have any doubt that you can do this ... I mean, look at what you've done already - the marathons and the bike riding and the brave flight just to run. I can't wait to see you make it all happen for yourself.
    1773 days ago
  • FREES1
    Dash - I am so sorry for your loss... i hope you are moving beyond the grief and are starting to feel the joy in the memories of your time with your friend...

    Its so good to see you back on SP.. you've been missed. Change is hard and changing gets scary.. you are correct, I think, that once we begin to move into the unfamiliar we seek the comfort of the known... and you changed many things besides your weight when your situtation changed...

    you lost 65 pounds - almost a quarter of the person you were when you started.. that's a lot! but you sampled it and you know you liked and were able to cope with the person you were at 220 so this time shouldn't be so scary!!!

    hang in - you can do it... we're all here struggling right along with you.. welcome back!
    1799 days ago
    I am so with you... I find myself approaching my "magic number"/highest weight again and it is so strange to think about why that has happened (especially considering how incrementally over the last 30 pounds or so I have kept telling myself, "this is enough"). But I am grateful that you thought of me for that challenge... now we just have to win our money back!

    1803 days ago
    Welcome back, Ash! I'm sorry to see that you struggled while you were away from SP, but so happy that you have the same thoughtfulness, introspection, and eloquence that I've always so admired in you and your writing. I'm actually really excited to read more about your new life in Chicago and the adventures you're going to take in the future!
    1803 days ago
  • SHEILA1505
    Hi there, Ash - look forward to hearing all about your journey
    Wishing you strength
    Hugs xxx
    1803 days ago
  • MOLLI15
    1804 days ago
    You FLEW to NY to go for a run?!?! Now that's crazy fun!

    I applaud your decision to get back to living the life you want. And I look forward to reading more about your adventures, because you sound like someone who really knows how to have a good time!

    1804 days ago
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