Formative Years Of Body Crap
I was raised in Fayetteville, Arkansas, a college town with an excess of gorgeous Sorority girls and All-American cheerleading types. I didn’t exactly fit that mold.
I received a lot of name-calling in my youth, “Fatso” for my body, “Anteater” and assorted other bon mots for my nose. Many tears were shed from grade school through Jr. High over my looks. I finally got it together around 9th grade when I realized my passcard through life would be Brains. While certainly not as satisfying as I imagined 5’8″, blonde and perky to be, it would do.
It’s funny when I think that one of my most shattering discoveries about my body was after I’d left for greener pastures and returned home to Fayetteville for a visit. I was crossing the UofA campus plaza to enter the Student Union. The entrance was not notable in any way, just a couple glass doors with glass panels on either side, but as I approached it, I saw for the first time that I had cellulite on the front of my thighs. I knew I had it on the back and sides, but this was a terrible revelation. Every step I took towards these doors filled me with one more moment of unexpected horror as my dimples reflected back at me.
That stuck with me for, oh…the next two and a half decades. From that moment on, whenever I looked into a full-length mirror, my front-thigh cellulite was the first thing I’d focus on (before shifting to the myriad of other body disappointments, of which there were many). Happily and shockingly, running eventually got rid of it, which I never thought possible. It was a miracle and why Running is indeed my religion.
The Schizo Body Owner
As I mentioned in the last post, I’d gone back and forth with my weight for many, many years – my high was about 145 and my low was 106.
While I truly hated being heavy, I still managed to find positive things to focus on. Pear-shaped, I hated my big hips but was grateful for an always discernible waistline. I hated my arms, but my calves and ankles were pretty good. I even found the grace of a clavicle or delicate wrists a semi-worthy consolation prize. When the rest depresses you, you hold onto those bits and pieces like a life-preserver.
That said, while I hated a lot of it, I also accepted myself, I wasn’t afraid of showing my body. Not one of those people to cover themselves up at a swimming pool or dress in shapeless clothing, I always had a strong sense of self. For this, I’m entirely thankful and have nothing but empathy and heartache for women who are painfully ashamed of their bodies. How I wish they could know what it’s like not to be so self-conscious and afraid.
What Running Did
Running changed my body completely. In a very short time, I became an alien creature to myself. I’m still not used to it entirely, especially because it was so unexpected and unplanned. It’s one thing to lose weight and be smaller, but to have the whole package come out different is weird. Fabulously cool, but genuinely weird. It’s like I got an acting role as “The athlete” for a while.
After all those years of fighting fat and fearing getting bigger, I’ve now done a 180° – dealing with trepidation about getting smaller.
Because of my age, I have anxiety that I’ll look older and uglier, that my skin will hang and not snap back, that I’ll look too manly (funny how I despised my big hips my whole life but now that I don’t have them, I sometimes miss those female curves). Anyway, the ridiculousness of it is that I can always gain the weight back if those things happen, but it goes a bit deeper.
I still hear my Ex asking “You’re not going to lose any more weight, are you?” and my friend asking “You’re not going to turn into one of those super scary runner chicks, are you?” Well-meaning questions, but completely external and nothing to do with me, really. My Ex was understandably sad at seeing the boobs and butt go but he also had major issues about my running (also understandable) which came out in assorted passive-aggressive ways and is a big part of why I left – yet here I am almost a year later, still holding on to those admonishments. And I know my friend is well aware of how pragmatic I am that I’d never do anything irresponsible, so it’s time to let that go too.
Which brings me to…
My Revised Weight Goal
While running yesterday, I was passed by a woman in her 40s, about my height with a similar petite frame, who had the body I envision for myself: lean, muscles showing with every step, lithe and strong, looked like she could Kick. Ass. If she’d have stopped at a fountain, I’d have boldly asked her how much she weighed – it sure as shit wasn’t 115.
I’d been thinking about revising the goal anyway, so here’s the dealio: 110ish…as long as it feels right and is easy to manage. Before anyone goes all Intervention on me and thinks I’m an anorexic in the making (no fucking way), here’s me at 115. Excuse the ugly eel face, that’s me completing a damn good kick to the finish.
Because when you think about it, there’s not a whole lot that separates me from my competition (aside from those with more natural talent): I’ve got the body type, I’ve got the training know-how, I’m respectful of keeping muscle and running a clean engine, why not take it to the next level? Why care as much as I do but stop short of real commitment? Because that’s the only difference as far as I can see.
In a month, I’ll be 49. I’ve been through a ton of incarnations in that time and I’m sure as hell not done yet. So let’s just see how close to Athlete I can actually get.