I wrote The Fat Kid last year, at length and with extreme prejudice, about my problems around body image.
My body image. Even typing it, it’s hard to own.
And when I look in the mirror, there’s still the feeling of disappointment, of let-down, because I don’t look how I’d like to.
Since getting on that health kick last April, I’ve lost over 50lb. I’ve dropped from ‘whale’ to a UK size 12, and look set to be getting towards the 10 (if only I was in the US, because then I’d currently be a size 8 (the equivalent there) and I’d feel SO much happier about the single digit, even if it’s all relative…).
I’ve developed muscles and stamina and ability I never knew I had. I’m following a lifestyle diet which isn’t crippling, and which is easy to stick to. I’m looking at my future and feeling confident that I can sustain these levels of activity and altered food habits.
So why on earth am I still disappointed?
It feels as though since I’ve begun actively trying to
look better be healthier, all I can see, brought into the spotlight, are the parts of me I’m still unhappy with. Wibbly arms. Flabby thighs. Wobbly tummy. Those annoying bits at the top of the back which seem to blob over the edges of my bra. Massive calf muscles from cycling which make me look like a bad drag queen. A chin which doubles too easily…
Vanity, vanity, all is vanity…
I can talk a good game – even Husby, the other night, was quite convinced by my act; he’d asked me how much more weight I was planning on losing, and I responded (quickly) that it wasn’t about the weight, it was about the shape, and how I was happy to keep going until I hit the shape I liked. He replied that he likes my tummy (+Husby Points) and I told him curtly that he should expect to see less of it in future (-Wifey Points).
Niece recently asked (at the top of her lungs) why I was running. I called back over my shoulder “To get healthier” as I nipped away into the rain and dark of the evening, feet pounding those damp pavements in an effort to NOT lose my grip on this, NOT get too far behind, NOT stop (because if I stop, would I ever start again?), NOT get fatter again. NOT pass on my hang-ups to this sweet little girl.
And then there was my friend at Christmastime, who doesn’t visit often, and when I saw her in passing, commented “Don’t get too much skinnier – I can see your collarbones.” And it’s ridiculous how much I’m treasuring those words and setting really far too much store by them – more than any compliment I ever receive, because I have a mental block about those, and default to not believing them.
I managed (finally!) to get on top of these nasty abdo cramps I’ve been having. Each time I’ve tried to run lately, I’ve managed less than a mile before they’ve hit, doubling me over, crippling me, making it impossible to exhale through pain like someone was running me through with a spear. Each time I’d wait for the pain to ease, and continue, only to be hit by another cramp a few hundred yards down the road. And then another. And another.
And clenching my entire body didn’t help; holding my breath didn’t help; slowing down and walking didn’t really help, and I’d cut short my run, cursing in frustration and return home, to dissolve into a puddle of angry, thwarted tears, with Husby poking at me to see if I was having appendicitis or liver failure or an exploded intestine or a hernia, while I laid, staring at the ceiling, despairing and imagining all the fat creeping back.
Yesterday I tried again. A last-ditch effort, thinking sadly about what on earth I’d do if I couldn’t run any more – if this cramp thing was going to permanently prevent me from doing the one thing I’d found which I was able to engage with in a bid to shift the flab. And although it wasn’t my biggest run (probably only a couple of miles) and it was broken into shorter sections as I popped around town and did a few chores, I kept the cramps at bay.
So today I had another go, to see if it was a fluke or not. I made sure I ate a bagel a couple of hours before I ran (running friends had been suggesting that perhaps the cramps were a result of running empty, though I’d previously tried running empty, full, snacked-up, and hadn’t noticed any difference) and this time it worked – not a fluke.
I ran and ran and ran…
And I tried so hard to beat that elusive 10 mile marker, which I’ve been hoping to hit for a few months, and never yet managed.
After an hour and a quarter, and onto my ‘third wind’ my legs were heavy and it was sheer force of will keeping me going. I was relapsing into walks in between the running, and after ten more minutes, I realised that no amount of 10 mile dreams was worth the sudden onsets of dizziness and the overwhelming desire to lay down on the pavement and go to sleep right there in the street. Self-improvement had begun to feel a little like self-harm, so I decided to call it quits whilst I was (maybe) ahead.
I *thought* that I might’ve just made the 10.
I thought wrong.
I got home and stretched properly (because even the promise of stopping is not worth leg cramps after midnight) and my mind wandered and I realised that I was nearly falling asleep, one leg up on a railing, trying to ease my hamstrings…
I staggered up the stairs and into the flat, managing (just) to get my running shoes off before lurching to the kitchen for two large glasses of water and a banana which didn’t touch the sides. I collapsed onto the sofa, and explained “I’ll tell you why I’m so tired once I’ve worked out how far I went” as Husby looked askance at me.
I clicked into Map My Run and entered my route.
Shit! One hour and 35 minutes of exhausting running and only 8.9 miles. An alleged 1,248 calories burned, but who cares because I didn’t reach that target.
Huge disappointment at the body which gave up so soon (but wait, there were no cramps – and I haven’t been running properly for ages because of them – surely this is a victory?); at the run which was too short (what the hell? NEARLY NINE MILES? Short? Are you kidding me?); and last (but not least) at the mind which is too easily distracted by this physicality crap. The mind which still hasn’t overcome the ingrained method of measuring worth by shape. The mind which can twist the weight loss and progress I’ve made and turn them into negatives.
My mind, which in spite of all its weakness and screwed-up crap is still easier for me to like than my figure.
Lessons I need to learn
- Turn into a less completely shallow human being
- Stop obsessing about this
- Stop obsessing about this
- Stop obsessing about this
(Get thinner and then I’ll be happy)
- Learn how to be happy. Then my figure won’t matter.