I’ve read some interesting blogs lately about weight and weight loss and perception. I don’t talk about my weight or weight loss, really, because it’s not my focus, not when there are puppies to take pictures of all over my house. But what is?
When I started this blog, it was about running. About 6 posts in, I got injured (of course), so it became about running as related to injury and then gradually became about the cross-training I was doing as related to injury and then morphed into triathlon training because that’s really what I was doing all along. Now, I’ve been injured a few times before, and each time, instead of fighting through it with cross-training, I’ve ended up giving up and sitting on my couch for months eating cheetos and complaining, which I talked about here. I believe that the reason I didn’t give up this time had a lot to do with this blog, and the community of runners and triathletes that I found myself sitting in the middle of once I looked around. The motivation and support that I had, coming at me from all sides, led me to do tons of things I might not ever have done, like buy a bike, cook tofu, do a sprint triathlon, ride a century, and then later on, make the decision to and then have the surgery that I needed. And I realized that this support was a unique experience this time around, and then realized that not everyone has that same kind of support and motivation. So I am lucky.
But through all of this, I’ve never really talked about my weight. I read a lot of blogs. I read the blog of every single person that follows mine, and then I read about 70 more that don’t. They cover a wide variety of topics, like running, triathlon training, cooking, eating, weight loss, cycling, etc. And they all serve a very good purpose, both to the writer, I am sure, and the audience. I read a post last week, which kicked off this line of thinking: she talks about how people say that losing weight won’t make you happy, and calls bullshit on it. It kicked off a hurricane of hateful comments, as I’m sure you can imagine. But I agree with it, I call bullshit as well. And I feel like I’m allowed to, because I’ve been on both sides of that line, and that, I guess, is what I actually want to talk about. Weight as related to happy. I’ve told my story, in a way, through a letter I wrote, and it's actually one of my favorite posts to date. Please go read it if you haven't, or just tell me you'll go read it, because it makes me happy. But this is telling it, yet again, in a different way. If you'd rather go look at pictures of puppies instead of reading this, I'm hooking you up right here here here here and here here. Otherwise, here we go, with numbers.
When I graduated from college, I weighed about 135 pounds (I’m almost 5’5”). I ran, a lot, and by this I mean 2-3 miles at a time almost every day, and didn’t really eat all that much. I would definitely not call myself healthy here. Thin, yes, healthy, no. Happy? Mostly.
Later that year, I moved to northern VA to start my First Real Job, and I got injured. Over the next 4 years I was bounced from doctor to doctor and physical therapist to physical therapist, and no one could fix my knee. And you know what? I was a workaholic, and I got lazy about my body. I gained at least 50 pounds over those 4 years, and maybe even more, but I never weighed myself because I didn’t want to know. IGNORANCE WHEEEEE. Finally I ended up with a physical therapist who changed my life by sending me to the magical mystery man, Dr. P, who did surgery on my first IT band in August of 2006. But it was too late to get that person back, the bouncy college girl who liked to run. And you know what? Dudes, changing your life is hard. So I didn’t.
I moved to Boston after surgery, and then back to Maryland, and then later down to Virginia (I hate moving). I got married, and I weighed myself on my wedding day (note: this is a terrible idea). 183 pounds. Was I happy? Not even close. I hated my job, I didn’t feel like I was being successful at school, I was miserable at home and was far away from all my friends (especially while living in Maryland). Did my weight contribute to that unhappiness? Definitely.
(photo credit: love life images)We moved to Alexandria later that year, and I started running with an old friend from college. Suddenly I had someone to meet up with, someone who didn’t mind my slow pace or the fact that I hadn’t run longer than 2 miles in 6 years. Then I picked up another running buddy, an old childhood friend who was just starting out as a runner. I completed a race, something I hadn’t done in 10 years.
And then another one.
And I was losing weight from running again, and lifting a little bit, and was I happier being thinner? HELL TO THE YES. It sucks to look at yourself in the mirror and see that the thin person you were in college has been eaten by a tired, old, fat person who is sad and exhausted by life. I weighed myself a few times during this 6-8 months, and I was down to about 160 pounds, and I was feeling better and better about myself. MY PANTS FIT BITCHES! My eating habits were still pretty awful, but I was running all the time so the pounds were falling off my junk. Thinner? Yes. Happier? Yes. Healthy? Not really.
And I was signed up for a half marathon, when one night after a long snowy run, I stood up and felt a little pop in my foot.
And maybe I am over-metaphorizing, but that little pop was the dam bursting. My life fell apart. I couldn’t run. I had no escape from the sadness of my relationship at home and the complete hell of my job. 2009: my year in free fall. I drank too much, I never came home to face what was going on, I thought hateful thoughts about my coworkers but never did anything about it, and I was in complete denial. One of the few bright spots in this was my trip out west to visit a friend where I got my tattoo. Was my weight part of my misery here, back up in the 180s again? Absolutely.
But then, my divorce was finalized. Suddenly my house was my home, instead of someplace to avoid. I started painting it and fixing the incredible list of broken things, and it was healing. I transitioned over to a new job, the best job that I have ever had, where I am challenged all the time and get to work with amazing, brilliant people. I brought home a teeny tiny puppy. And I started running again, and that’s where this blog begins.
And for the both of you that have been here since the beginning (and the 3 of you that have read my blog from start to finish), you’ve seen it happen. You’ve watched me learn more about nutrition, and change my diet to better fuel my life. I gave up red meat, and then most meat, and started eating tofu, and trying to get more protein in, and learned about fueling during distance cycling. I stopped drinking quite as ridiculously as I had been. But this time I was making changes for the right reasons: because I wanted to be able to lift, because I wanted to last 5 hours on a bicycle, because the less junk in my trunk, the easier it is to haul ass up those big hills. And the weight fell off again. It’s been gradual but very definite. I’d guess that I was weighing in at close to 185 pounds last Christmas (2009).
Now, today, I weigh 137 pounds.
(photo credit: kardelen portraits)But we all know that’s not the whole story. Am I happier? Yes. But am I healthier, this time around? Absolutely. That’s something else I’ve learned from a lot of people, somewhere along the way, that it’s not about being thin. For me, it’s about being able to power up that hill, or through the 10th 50 yard sprint, or rock the face off that tempo run. I love all things that make me want to puke and die. Has that happiness, healthiness bled into all corners of my life? Of course. How could it not?
(photo credit: kardelen portraits)Now, some people probably look at 137-pound me and think I could still lose a little. Some might think I’m too thin. I love my body (except for the fact that it’s falling apart so quickly). I have muscles. I can ride a bike for 7 hours. I can (and will) leg press your mom. I love being an endurance athlete. I will never be able to run a 5-minute mile, but some day I might run 100 of those miles. I eat like a 137-pound endurance athlete who trains 10-15 hours a week, so that’s what I look like. If I was eating like a 160-pound person who never worked out, that’s what I would look like. Do I pay attention to the nutritional value of everything that goes in my mouth? Absolutely. Do I let that stop me from eating 3 cupcakes for lunch sometimes? Not in the slightest. Because sometimes 3 cupcakes for lunch makes me happy, but I also know that averaging 20mph on a bike makes me happy and it's a lot harder to do that when I weigh 180 pounds, so I don't do it every day.
A lot of the blogs I read are from people that have stories like this, and some of them talk about it, and some don’t. Initially, I didn’t want my blog to be a place where I talked about it - probably, in large part, because I was ashamed that I would let my life look like that for so long. Do I think that thin = happy? No, of course not, but I still call bullshit on the people that say being thinner doesn't make you happier. And I call bullshit on you if you try and convince me that I'd be this happy if I weighed 183 pounds again. My journey hasn’t been about weight loss, but it’s happened, a side effect to living my life the way I do, to doing the really tough work that makes this brain and this booty a little bit more comfortable to walk around in. Am I happier for it? Of course.