Saturday, October 17, 2015

Let's Get Physical

This is part one of several posts regarding my size and what I'm doing about it. It is a pretty personal story, but I invite you to please follow along as I laugh, whine, complain, celebrate, swear, and sweat.

In case I haven’t made it abundantly clear, I am fat. And not like Mean Girls fat.

I’m actually fat. That doesn’t mean I don’t love myself or that I think I’m ugly. It doesn’t mean that I don’t think I’m deserving of a man who treats me right and thinks I’m beautiful or that I need to wear nothing by dark circus tent-like outfits to disguise my curves. But I do think that I ought to lose weight in order to live a nice long life that I can spend telling the world to go to hell.

Except it would be less fat.

I wanted to acknowledge my fatness from the get go, because for whatever reason, sometimes people feel the need to inform me. When I politely acknowledge that this is not a surprise to me and that I’m attempting to do something about it, frequently these very “well meaning” people will break into a lecture filled with concerned tones and helpful hints. It’s like they can’t help themselves--they’ve gone to the trouble of coming up with this lecture, and by God they’re going to get to say it, no matter what I say. It’s actually a bit of a Christmas tradition for some folks: As an evening holiday party winds down, someone pulls me aside and tells me with a look in their eyes as though I’m a breath away from dying all about how I have to get my life “under control.” Oh and “Merry Christmas and thank you for the lovely gift.” It’s inevitable, it happens every year, and there is nothing I can say to stop the awkward exchange.

It used to be that I’d list what I was doing in order to not be fat, but there’d be this doubtful look in their eyes and they’d continue with their personal appeal to my skinnier nature. This year I’m trying to get ahead of the concerned folks because I have this theory that if I lose enough weight by Christmas that they can tell that maybe I won’t have to have another lecture.

I know, that’s no reason to lose weight, but it’s enough motivation, in the short term. In the long term I don’t want to be dead by 35. I want to be able to shop in a store that isn’t Lane Bryant and not online. I would like to be able to walk into a restaurant without worrying that the geniuses who designed the place haven’t bolted the tables and booths to the walls so that I have to contemplate whether Miss Manners would equate stomach fat spillage on the table with putting my elbows on the surface.

To that end, I have recently enrolled with Orangetheory Fitness. It’s a gym with a philosophy that guides you through your workout. You’re given a monitor to wear under your clothes and it puts out a real time read out on your heartrate. The idea is to reach the “Orange Zone” and maintain it for a portion of your workout so you can maximize your after-burn (meaning you continue to burn calories after you’re done working out.) My friend Brooks is a partner with the place. He saw a post I made on Facebook, where I think I was expressing dismay at my size, the largest I’ve ever been, and a desire to do something about it. A few months later, once the gym was built, I was sweating to the dulcet tones of their trainers and my ragged breathing.

In my first class I lost my mind completely. You see, they have this pace setting thing called, ‘Base, Push, All Out,’ which works out to be, 'Ugh, this sucks.' 'OMG, no, THIS sucks!' and finally 'WHAT DID I DO SO WRONG IN MY LIFE TO DESERVE THIS?!' At least it feels that way or me. I gave into a little bit of perceived peer pressure and tried to keep up with people who consider 3 miles an hour on a treadmill to be a leisurely pace. Within about 10 minutes I was puking in the bathroom. Yep, I was that girl. Then I managed to get myself together and dove back in. And I made the mistake of looking in the mirror at some of the people working out. For whatever reason, there was one girl who kept locking eyes with me, but not in a friendly way, but more in what FELT like judgey. I felt so uncomfortable that I tried to run hard again, just to get her to stop scrutinizing my pace as she gave sidelong glances at my control panel. For all I know, the girl was thinking, ‘Wow! She is impressing me with her effort!’ But in my head I was thinking, ‘This skinny girl is judging me!!’ My face just got redder and redder, my coughing became more and more pronounced, and breathing was more than a little labored. The entire time though, the trainers kept checking in on me, giving recommendations, and correcting things like posture or my speed and incline. Eventually though, after only a half hour, I had to go sit down in the lobby while the rest of the class continued. It was around then that I realized my hands were shaking and my body was on the brink of becoming even more uncooperative.

Enter Brooks, with an icepack. He sat next to me and we talked about how I could I approach this differently--like, for example, acknowledging that my base speed wasn’t going to be as fast as everyone else’s. He also praised me, pointing out that I had gotten into the Orange Zone and maintained it for a 13 minutes--which is pretty good, considering I only worked out for a half hour. In any other situation I would have felt like a complete failure, and in fact, those first couple minutes I sat there, I did. I felt like such an idiot, that I had made a big mistake. But talking to Brooks and the other people who work there afterwards, I had a new attitude: I could do this, I just needed to do it on a level that worked for me. After the class concluded, I went back in and got a tutorial on the most intimidating piece of equipment: The Rower of Doom! Well, that’s what I call it. A trainer (Wes) showed me how to use it in a no pressure environment, (Read: With no one else around!) and I headed out to visit at my grandmother’s house, feeling optimistic, kind of proud (with a dollop of disappointment in myself), and a very red, sweaty face.

The takeaway from that night? Exercise is awful, hard, and sucks. But I'm told it gets easier and eventually can become enjoyable. I suspect that last bit is a skinny person lie, but we shall see. You know skinny people--they lie all about all sorts of things. 'Greek yogurt tastes great on a baked potato!' 'I love hiking!' and 'Nothing tastes as good as being thin.' Why must you lie to fat folks, skinny people?

That evening, a couple things happened.

  1. I picked up a bunch of cat toys off the floor for my grandmother. My back suddenly began twinging, but I assumed that this was due to being fat and having exercised.
  2. My car got broken into and my workout shoes stolen. Talk about irritating. I didn’t even like working out really, and now the thing that made it a little bit easier was gone. That’s not even mentioning the sudden feeling of vulnerability and having to clean out part of my car at 2 in the morning in the dark. (Meaning I was crouching, nearly upside down in the front seat, trying to get up pieces of glass.)

Would almost be pretty if it didn't cost me $300+.

And sometime around #1 and #2, I threw out my back.

Next post, coming on Monday: Bunny squats, my new fiance--the heating pad, and how I unexpectedly started to like going to a gym with a preoccupation with the color orange.


  1. Tru Luh!

    Love you from way over here, JessieBear!

  2. So proud of your determination and talent, BabyBear! I love you so MUTT!!!