Talking about exercise, weight, and eating, in this post.
Why do I do that? Why do I mention, at the top of the post, that I will be talking about food, and weight lifting, and my body, in this post on my blog? It’s funny, how some things, some topics, some activities, some objects in the world such as my body, accrue psychic freight. But they do, and they have, and in the world of the internet it’s polite to warn people before going on about some topics.
This past weekend I ran a mile. I jogged a mile, with my nine-year-old daughter walking beside me. We chatted while I ran, which is this hither-to mythical state of working out in which one can hold a conversation while doing so. Granted, I was running slowly enough that my daughter was walking. But I, I was running. And I ran a mile.
I had my work-required physical this past week. My blood pressure was 124/80 and all other health-type-indicators were perfect.
This past week I completed two reps of a ninety-pound bench press. I managed a fifty-five pound clean-and-press. I did a 155-pound Romanian deadlift. I held a ninety-second plank. I can bicep curl my kids. I can hoist a forty-pound bag of dog food onto my shoulder and trot up the steps into the house with it. I can almost shoulder press my daughter.
In the past year I have lost twenty pounds. I have gone down four holes on my belt. My ring is looser than it ever has been. I am wondering how a person decides they need to buy clothes in a smaller size, because I have never done that in my entire life, and it’s occurring to me that I might need to.
I eat food that I mostly make myself. I make it from ingredients I can pronounce and can identify by looking at them. I eat food that is bright and smells good and tastes good to me. I eat food that agrees with my digestion. For the first time in about ten years I do not have a regularly upset stomach. (We’re gonna run with that euphemism, here. Make of it what you will.) I eat when I am hungry and I stop when I am not hungry, and I can tell the difference between the two states.
I wake up most mornings cheerful and reasonably alert, despite not having had a regular sleep schedule in fifteen years, without coffee. I have rare headaches, when I’m sick, instead of daily. When my muscles and joints ache (and they do) it’s because I worked out hard the day before and I need a rest.
I am in the best physical condition of my adult life.
This weight loss moves me from weighing 335 pounds to weighing about 315, more or less. I wear a 5x men’s t-shirt. I wear men’s 56×30 jeans. I cannot do a sit-up, push-up, or pull-up. My coworkers are surprised when I mention I work out three or four days every week. They cannot tell. They cannot tell because the measure that matters more than any other measure in my culture is weight, and I have not lost a visibly significant amount of weight.
I have weighed less, as an adult. Yet, when I did, I could not lift this amount of weight or run these distances. My blood pressure has been lower. Yet I was (and am) hypothyroid and when I went on medication for this, my blood pressure went up to 120/80. Now I can do more. I sheerly love the things my body can do. I revel in it, I want to talk about it all the time. I clearly have some sort of NRE (new relationship energy) with my body. With what it can do.
By the measures I want to support, I am healthy.
By the measure that my culture supports, I have wasted the last two years. I am a failure.
Before you comment, please, understand what I am saying here. I am not chiming in with how screwed-up my culture’s ideas of weight are. (Though I think they are profoundly messed-up.) I am for the love of god NOT asking for your validation. (Honestly, I am so tickled with the things I can do, I validate myself all the damn time. You don’t need to boost my ego, it’s high enough.) Nor am I requesting cheerleading in weight loss, or suggestions on dieting, or any other such thing. (I don’t diet and weight loss is not my goal.)
I am pointing out how odd it is to be in my head and my body right now. It’s odd, is what I am saying.
It’s odd, holding two contradictory truths in my head at the same time. And it’s odder still to contain them both in my flesh, in my fat and muscle and bone and skin. The contradiction rests inside the word “fat”.
I am fat.
This is not a, a thing that is contestible. It’s simply true. My body jiggles and wobbles and folds on itself. My kids tell me that they like snuggling with me because I am plump, and “plump” is one of the highest compliments they give.
Yet every time I say I am fat, I have a mental conversation, argument, a debate in my head.
“Don’t say that, you’re healthy.”
“Fat doesn’t automatically mean unhealthy.”
“Who are you kidding, of course it does, people won’t understand what you mean, you should explain.”
“It’s just a word.”
“Maybe if you’re one of those fat-acceptance activists, but not in the real world. Use a different word.”
“It describes me.”
“People will think you hate yourself.”
“But I don’t.”
“Well, okay, no, you don’t hate yourself, that’s true. But you have to re-check every time you call yourself fat.”
“Yeah. But that’s not on me, that’s on the culture.”
“Quibbling. I still think you should use a different word.”
And so it goes.
How can I be fat and healthy at the same time? How can I be proud of my newly-acquired strength if I still wear a 5x? How can I delight in running when my entire body sways and bounces and flops as I run?
I don’t know. I can be, it seems. I am.
I am healthy.
I am fat.
This is a strange, strange place to be.