(Sidenote: iWill is officially an Ironman. I don’t want to steal his thunder, so I’ll wait to talk about my experience of watching him fight for this incredible accomplishment until he has his race report posted. BUT. He’s an Ironman and a rockstar and your messages of congratulations on his blog would not be unearned.)
(Okay, now for a Post.)
I was 11 the first time I went on a diet. My best friend and I were weighing ourselves, just for fun, and she weighed 85lbs. I weighed 92. So I immediately said I was dieting, which really just meant skipping lunch every day. I didn’t realize she was 4 inches shorter than I was, nor did it occur to me that I might have been completely fine the way I was. I just knew I weighed more and weighing more was a bad thing.
For the next 20 years, my life revolved around dieting, not dieting, being too big, feeling unattractive and wishing I would wake up skinny, miraculously. It is quite possible I used to wish for cancer when I was 13 because everyone knew cancer made you skinny. At 14, I stole Dexatrim from my mom’s medicine cabinet. I also started hiding food in my room. My fascination with Secret Eating snowballed out of control, and quickly. I won’t even tell you about college, though I once tallied the calories I took in on a typical secret eating binge: 3,200. Seriously. And this would happen on the regular, like every other day. I was a mess.
Secret Eating was an addiction. Slim and I broke up over two years ago and he told me recently he is still finding candy wrappers stashed around his condo, which might say more about his housekeeping than my secret eating but whatever. Thankfully, I’m a lot better now. It took years and a lot of hard work, but Secret Eating is mostly a thing of the past. (I learned the trick is to have a friend you tell when you are going to Secret Eat, one who understands and who will remind you to get back on track right afterwards, and maybe go smaller with your Secret Eating menu.)
Still, 20 years of spending the majority of your energy thinking about weight loss builds a LOT of baggage.
Which made a recent decision very and extremely difficult.
Usually I’m great at decisions. I have my gut, inherited from my grandfather. It’s a General’s Gut, which means when I make a decision, I’m certain. After careful consideration and honest reflection, I know what’s best for my life, what the right next steps are, and how to move forward. It’s rare I don’t know exactly what I should do.
But this particular decision, because of the baggage in which it was wrapped, had me spinning, totally and completely stuck. For the last six months, I have been living my life very specifically. I have been focusing on weight loss, moving toward a goal number on the scale, counting calories and trying to stay out of my own way. I’ve been successful. As of today, I’ve been 42 pounds successful.
Yet sometime during all of this, my goals shifted. While I’m still eyeballing the scale, hoping to see a very specific number, I’m also noticing the subtle changes in my body. Like the way my calves feel after a long run. Or the way my core burns after a set of planks. And I’ve made new goals. There are the Big Two, the half and full marathons, obviously. But there are bigger, quieter goals, dancing in the back of my mind, growing with each run. Sometimes I think about a 50k. I’ve even pictured myself as a pacer for 25+ miles on a trail run. Someday. Not any time soon, but it’s there, in the back of my mind on each long run, as my breath speeds up and my heart beats to the rhythm of, “What if, what if, what if…”
But there’s a catch. See, these goals require more than 1200-1300 calories a day. They demand the ability to look beyond the number on the scale to focus on the invisible milestones. Increased endurance. Faster splits. The small components that will be the building blocks of the bigger goals. They require me to radically change how I view the things I eat.
Weight loss or fitness? Smaller jeans or bigger dreams? 10 pounds more or 10 mile runs? 20 past years spent dieting or 20 future years spent running? I know the right-for-me answer. It’s a matter of silencing my vanity and trusting that focusing on my fitness goals will bring me more happiness and self-satisfaction in the long run, on my long runs. It’s a matter of believing I am stronger than my baggage and that I have an incredible capacity for change.
This is the part of the process where I have to trust myself to do best I can for my body, providing fuel for seeing what I can do, for making it happen. Who knows? Maybe I’ll lose the last 10 pounds anyway. But that needs to matter less now. My goals are bigger than 10 pounds. And when I imagine all the feelings I’ll feel when I cross the finish line after running my first half marathon? I have to believe those feelings will be way more satisfying than any number I see on the scale.
This week I’ll run 7 miles, my longest run ever. And then 8 miles. Then 9. Then 10. And onward and forward and upward until I’m running for hours without stopping, eyes wide with remembering who I used to be, at peace with who I am today, and running faster to see who I will become.
Let’s just see.