Friday, August 22, 2008

The Horns of a Dilemma

I've mentioned before that my injury lead to an even more sedentary lifestyle which lead to inevitable weight gain.

Since then, I have discovered the size acceptance movement online and it has given me a lot of comfort. I have been presented with research that states that weight is not necessarily an appropriate marker for health. I have been presented with an intriguing study which proved that it is as difficult for a thin person to be fat as it is for a fat person to be thin. I know it would be responsible to link to that research, but I didn't bookmark any of it. Just read it and moved on. More importantly, I have been introduced to a lot of folks who eat right, exercise, and do not lose weight. This is who I was a year or two ago. The difference is, they have come to terms with it and continue to engage in healthy habits just for their health - not with a weight loss goal.

I need to find a way to get there.

When I was working out, it became an obsession for me. I truly loved it. Well, not all of it. I loved walking and I loved weightlifting and I loved classes. I didn't love cardio so much - viewed it as a necessary evil - but even with that, I got a real thrill out of setting goals for myself and surpassing them. I loved going to the gym and I loved going to the park and I loved going to total fitness classes and yoga classes - I just loved the whole lifestyle.

So why did I leave it, and why can't I find my way back to it?

Well, as a woman with extra weight, it's hard to not gauge progress by the scale. And I was very aware that others were watching. This is how it goes for a big gal in a small gym: At first, people think you're not going to last. They don't pay much attention to you at all because you're not really worth investing in. A lot of fat people join gyms. Not many of them regularly use them. Then you sort of prove yourself after going very regularly for a couple months. Regulars start to nod in acquaintance and eventually casual conversations begin. And they almost ALWAYS begin with some variation of, "you've really been working hard - how much have you lost so far?". Small numbers seem to disappoint them. "Well, keep at it, you're doing great." A few more months go by and you're up to an hour on the elliptical daily followed by lifting what seemed like MASSIVE amounts of weight a few months ago, sometimes followed by a brisk walk through the park. You are feeling fierce. But you're still fat. People give you unsolicited advice. Mostly people who have lost weight themselves - helpful, kind people who want to share what worked for them.

I started noticing people's muscles. Men and women - it wasn't a sexual thing at all - it was purely aesthetic. And more than a little envious. I could FEEL some of those muscles becoming more developed in me, but I couldn't see them through the extra layer of fat. And they looked so beautiful on other people. Some of whom weren't working nearly as hard as I was. It pissed me off.

The straw that broke this camels back was when my personal trainer told me that a lot of her other clients were telling her how inspirational they found me to be. You know, "if she can keep doing it, I can keep doing it".

I quit doing it.

Now I want to get back. I'm unhealthy. I'm out of breath going up and down the stairs. The size acceptance folks have convinced me that there really is such a thing as a "set-point", but I'm about 30 pounds past mine. I don't feel well. I know what to do and how to do it, but I'm so afraid to start. I'm afraid that if I get some momentum going again I'm going to start forgetting that it's ok to be big as long as you're healthy and start wanting to be thin at all costs. Because, lets face it, it does suck a little bit to be working harder than some of the thin folks just to maintain a fat (healthy) body. Also, repetitive cardio like the elliptical or even walking in the park gives you lots of time to think. And fantasize. "If I keep this up, surely THIS time I'll lose the weight". Realistically, the older I get, the less likely this is to happen.

And well-meaning folks do say things.

The timing is right. The kids are back in school, I only have one more week of classes. The job search hasn't been going well, so I remain basically unemployed (1 night a week schlepping pizzas hardly counts). I have time to devote to myself. How lucky am I?

So the dilemma is: how do I manage to balance taking care of myself and being healthy with accepting my outer shell just as it is?

Seriously. I'm asking.

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