I’ve been asked by a couple of people this week if I’m a “runner.” I’ve also been asked if I want to go overnight backpacking. And also which gym I belong to (because of course I belong to one). This is a new thing. I don’t think these people are being polite - I think they see it as an actual possibility that I am that kind of person (I’m trying to be). I’m still overweight: I won’t hit that magical “normal” BMI number for another 10 pounds. However, I look pretty normal.
This is all a little alarming. Number one, I’m definitely going to betray and abandon the old fat me. I’m living in a new place where no one knows me yet. I do not remotely feel tempted to tell anyone that I’ve recently lost a lot of weight. I’m trying to decide whether I’m trying to hide my past, run from my past, erase my past, or whether I’m just moving on in a healthy way. Number two, I’m going to have to do some awfully sporty things to keep up this facade. This is probably a very good thing for me. I tend to be a baseline fairly lazy person unless I’m pushed by something to work out a lot. Sometimes that something is vanity, sometimes it’s boredom, and sometimes it’s a quest to keep up with peer pressure. It’s what’s led to the periods in my life - sometimes they’ve been several years long - when I’ve been in good shape. This could be a really good motivator for me.
I went camping with a group of people this weekend. I love camping. This was just car camping, so nothing athletic about it, but it was the group of people that was athletic. This is a group whose respective hobbies include: rock climbing, backpacking, weightlifting, cycling, long distance running, kite surfing, yoga, ultimate frisbee, surfing, and… well, you name it. If it’s an outdoorsy, athletic thing, at least one of these people does it. It was a little intimidating. They were all very nice, though, and are excited to incorporate us into their sporty group. I hope I can keep up. It may actually push me to do things I want to do in theory but am a bit chicken to do without some external motivating factors.
This brings me to my love/hate relationship with running, which I am contemplating starting again. Weight loss has always been accompanied by running in my life. Chicken or egg sort of thing - not sure which spurs on the other, but they seem to go hand in hand. I wrecked my ACLs in my teens (soccer left and downhill skiing right), so I’ve had to be careful about how heavy I am when I run. Below 180, I seem to do OK. When I had my surgery, one of the things I promised myself was that when I got to that threshold, I would start running again. Running makes me feel good (eventually! it sucks for a while). It gets me in shape the way little else does. It seemed like a really long way off when I made that decision, perhaps an imaginary amount of time in the future. Maybe I’d never get there - statistically I wouldn’t, since average weight loss after RNY is something like 70% of total excess weight, and that would still put me above 180.
Well, it’s been coming on the horizon for a while now, and I’ve hit and passed the 180 mark. I’m at 175 today (-82% of total excess weight). I have not started the running. This is where I confess to my “reasons” (excuses).
Best reason, possibly an actual reason rather than an excuse: I broke some toes a few years ago and continued to wear high heels for a couple of months afterwards instead of buying some flats to let the toes heal properly. Hey, at least I quit running to let them heal. I realize how stupid this sounds in retrospect, but as a formerly sporty person, I have broken toes many times in my life, and you can’t really do anything about them. You just tape them up and let them heal. The stupid part, the high heels, was because at the time I only wore heels. I didn’t own any sensible flats other than workout shoes or hiking boots. I didn’t want to buy flats just for the few weeks it would take for my toes to heal. This was a mistake, as it had a knock-on effect on the rest of my foot. My metatarsals got a bit whacked out of alignment because of my idiocy. This led to some foot pain that led to me not getting back to running. More pain -> less exercise -> weight gain -> more pain -> less exercise -> weight gain -> more pain, etc. (depression fits into that equation somewhere, too) The good news is that the pain is getting better with the weight loss. The bad news is that my foot still hurts a bit when I walk for a long time. I’m thinking of testing out my pet theory that running will put pressure on different places and might not hurt.
Next best reason, sort of an excuse, but maybe not?: my knees are delicate creatures and have now been put under the strain of me being a lot heavier for several years. I am also older. My parents both had/have knee problems. I don’t want to wear my poor knees out. Of course, this does not take into account the fact that running on the proper surfaces with good shoes shouldn’t be a problem if I’m not too heavy, and also that running can strengthen the muscles that help support my knees. And now I’m below that magical 180 threshold…
Worst reason, definitely an excuse: I’m afraid of looking fat when I run. I know I am not in running shape, and I fear people looking and judging as I get over that first few months hump of looking awkward and gasping for breath and not being in shape. I’m jiggly and bouncy. I want to look like a tiny gazelle running. I do not look like that now. If I try running, I’ll have to do it at the gym, on a treadmill, facing a mirror (why oh why are gyms full of mirrors) and in front of whoever is there working out. It’s still really hot here, so no outdoor running yet. The only way to NOT look bad running is to start running and get in shape, I know. But what if I wait another 20 pounds?
Feel free to tell me of your thoughts on my reasons/excuses in the comments. I’m trying not to be stupid, but I’m also trying to not let my lazy and chicken-hearted inner voices control me.
So, operation Masquerade as a Normal Person is in full swing. I am a Healthy Person who eats very little, mostly protein. I am a Person Who Exercises Regularly. I am a Sporty, Outdoorsy Person. No one knows any different here, so I’m just going to go with that.
Am I betraying my formerly fat self? I’m of two minds about that. She is me, and neither of us liked being that person, suffering physically and emotionally all the time and beating herself up for her failures and shortcomings. It was awful and depressing, and leaving that chapter behind is a positive step forward. On the other hand, she is me, and erasing her from the picture is not honoring the she who became me, or the me that comes out of her suffering. I am the product of all of the experiences of my life, whether they were experiences I want to talk about and share or not. She will always be there, even if I don’t acknowledge her to anyone else. It feels a little like photoshopping out an ex from all of my photos, though.
Carving out a new identity is a big part of extreme weight loss. I know that. I’ve done that before (several times). Carving out a new identity is also a big part of moving to a new country, far from people you know. I know that. I’ve done that several times, too. Put both of those factors together, and I’ve got the potential for a whole new life, one that I can mold and shape as I want to. At some point, rearranging your life to consist of entirely new behaviors and experiences does actually make you a different person - the underlying personality is there, but with new thought processes and habits layered on top. I think that’s called growth.