um, oops. i accidentally removed this post when i went in to edit it.
It was a Wednesday in August -- the first Wednesday in August, I believe -- in 1994.
My first year of college had been rather horrible. When the first semester (which I'll write about when I find the fortitude* to relive those awful, awful days) ended, I was grateful…and also maybe a little heavier than when it had started. The second semester, however, was even worse on my self-esteem, and I packed on more weight. I know it’s fairly common to put on the Freshman 15, but I think it’s usually because of late-night partying and binge-drinking and not, as was my case, out of misery.
By the time summer came around, I was unhappy, unhealthy, and felt incredibly stuck. College had proven an enormous disappointment and I had no back-up plan. Adolescence, high school, teenager-dom in general had sucked. And I had expected college to provide a great relief from the banality of it all. Instead, I found it had simply mutated, and into something far worse: banality with a beer bong.
I remember thinking, "If college is supposed to reflect 'the real world' then I am totally fucked." But more on this later.
The point is, the people I'd grown up and graduated with – not so much my “friends” anymore – all seemed to be doing cool things. Everyone had had a great freshman year, made more fun by spending their first collegiate summer traveling, working in fun places, visiting new college friends, and partying at night.
And then there was me: I had dropped out of school after the first semester and was taking a couple classes at a local campus. I had no idea what I wanted to do or where to do it. I hoped I'd figure it out eventually, but “eventually” seemed impossibly far away. Especially when summer started to drift away and I realized that everyone was preparing to return to school for their second year while I...well, while I wasn't.
That summer I had only one good friend who lived nearby and who had a schedule like mine ( = some part-time work and a LOT of watching Comedy Central and surfing the internet). We spent much of our time together bemoaning our respective lots in life, wondering how it was we were STILL such losers. We were both attractive, smart, clever, talented...How could it be, we would wonder, that we have no lives?
When my friend realized he would soon be returning to college with nothing to show for his summer at home, he decided that he needed to do something. He decided he would start going to the gym. And that I would go with him.
Of course, I said no. I had no school to return to, so I had no one to impress. I felt hopelessly de-motivated in general, and working out did NOT seem like the remedy to my I-have-no-idea-what-to-do-with-my-life mopings.
But that fateful morning in August, sometime before 10 a.m., he called me, knowing full well that I was at home, asleep, and that he would be waking me.
"I'm going to the Y. You're coming with me. I'm picking you up in 15 minutes," was about the extent of our conversation, and I knew better than to argue. Mike was going to show up at my house and in the end, it was going to be easier to go with him than to try and get him to leave my house without me.
And that was how it all started.
*Go figure. I was able to write about my divorce and even my mom, probably because, while they were terrible, they weren't all about me feeling bad about myself. My first year of college was the darkest time for me in my whole life self-esteem-wise, and it's hard to dredge that back up. Ugh.
* * * * * *
Over the next nine or so months, I lost 50 pounds, got into great shape, and changed my life forever. In many more ways than physical.
* * * * * *
All frustrations and bitching aside, I believe I am aware of my biggest problem, and none of us are really talking about it. In fact, now that I'm thinking of it, it's almost notably absent from all this weight loss and diet discussion. And that is the issue of priorities and motivation.
Pyewacket is clearly well intentioned and coming from a knowledgeable place, but I found myself disagreeing with this statement:
"...when you say that that something 'worked' but you gained the weight back, itdidn't really work. Really."
I understand, but here's why I disagree.
I didn't jump in haphazardly, or go on some crash diet that I then abandoned when it was "over." I was dedicated to making lasting changes. (Actually, I was practically obsessed.) I was focused on becoming a better person, determined to become healthy inside and out. I made real, good, whole lifestyle changes.
Except you know what happened?
My lifestyle changed.
The methods and changes I made to my life, to my view of food, to why/when/how/what I ate totally worked when I was 19 and in college. But when I graduated, got a full-time job, had totally different hours, money, responsibilities, and also a full-time fiance/husband -- those changes couldn't hold. Or at least, I didn't want them to.
Don't get me wrong, I wanted to stay slim. But it was no longer my number one priority. THAT changed.
* * * * * *
So right, priorities and motivation.
The simple, frightening truth of the matter, for me, is this: when I have successfully lost weight, weight loss and working out have been TOP priorities in my life. I FOCUS on them every day. I write about them. I talk about them. I work my day around them.
When I'm losing weight, I'm thinking about losing weight CONSTANTLY.
If I'm working on portion control, and going through the nagging pains of being-hungry-until-my-body-adjusts, then I am thinking about food. (It is hard not to think about food when your body is telling you it's hungry, even if your body is lying.)
If I decide to mostly eat in? Well, that requires planning (and regularity of planning) -- from shopping to preparation. Think about how much mental energy it takes to plan, prepare, and eat homemade meals twice a day, say six days a week.
When I was single and in college, I had the time and flexibility to eat and work out the way I wanted to because I was my only responsibility. My body was easy as a priority -- and not hard to work into my busy (but solitary) life.
But after I became part of a living-together couple, my focus shifted. Of course my body was still a priority, but not the way it had been. Frankly, I cared more about spending time with my fiance than I did spending time at the gym. I cared more about going to a nice place with him -- because it was romantic, because we could afford it -- than I did about worrying about calories.
In all this talk about diets and weight and exercise and and and, we have not discussed the "Why." I think mostly we all take it at face value -- of course everyone wants to have a gorgeous body -- and leave it at that.
But if you don't know Why -- if you don't really, clearly know Why and believe in that Why and hold that Why sacred -- then it becomes pretty easy to ignore it and just have another piece of goddamned cake. Because
If you can't identify the prize, if you don't believe it the end point completely, then what's going to stop you from giving in to temptation when you're worn down?
"I want to have a great body" is not, at least for me, a Why. It's not good enough.
"So that WHAT?" I need to ask.
And I need to answer. And I'm not sure what that is yet.
"I want to lose weight and have a healthy body so that..." ???
* * * * *
By that summer of 1994 my life looked completely, utterly unremarkable. I was only 19, sure, but I had expected to be on some path by then. And if I couldn't be on a clear path (school --> job --> dating --> marriage --> money, house, kids...) then at least I thought I should be having fun. And I wasn't doing that, either.
So one day, sparked by my friend Mike, I decided that I was going to change everything. There was no reason, no reason, not to be in great shape and look beautiful. And...
...well, I thought that if I could lose weight and look great, that everything else would fall into place. That if I could control my body, I could control everything else in my life, too.
I put so so SO much stock in my losing weight, I linked my entire future happiness to my ability to succeed. And let me tell you, it is a LOT easier not to eat that piece of cake, not to drink, not to eat more than 800 calories most days, and not to indulge in a sedentary lifestyle when you believe that if you do, you will return to your life as a fat, lonely, ugly, unsuccessful, unwanted girl.
It is a LOT easier to stay motivated and focused when you think that you will become more popular, have awesome dating prospects, get better job offers, and be able to make the most of your college experience if you stick to your weight loss plan.
In fact, it is almost EASY to lose weight when you know that every pound lost, every ounce shed is a step closer to being able to walk past that boy named Charles who made fun of you behind your back and made whale sounds to imitate you in an intimate moment, of being able to see the look of sheer envy on your vile roommate's face, of being able to strut past every guy who ever felt sorry for you and be able to say, "Not only do I look great now, but I'm also STILL the sweet, smart, clever, funny, driven person I used to be, too, before I let you convince me I was worthy of pity. Oh yes, I am quite possibly the most complete package you will ever meet. And no, you can't have me now. You can't have me ever."
My point here is this: when I was in college I was damn well motivated to lose weight. I believed that my entire future was at stake. So I lost weight. I got in shape. I looked great.
And the result?
Did everything else change, too? Was I able to exact my "revenge" on the world? Was my life suddenly everything I wanted it to look like?
* * * * * *
So okay, let's fast-forward to my life NOW in San Francisco.
Years and heartbreak and life-changes and all sorts of perspective later, I no longer wrap my life or esteem or worth or value or success up in what I look like. Maybe because I moved, maybe because I grew up, or most likely both, I do not believe that I need to be thin to be successful.
Instead, I believe I need to be thin in order to...
Well, I mean, so that I can...
Of course I want to be healthy and have longevity, but other than vague standards of 'wellness' (such as normal cholesterol, blood pressure, and resting heart rate, which I have) I should lose lots of weight because...
* * * * * *
In the end, I need to figure out why I want this.
I used to think that I'd have to be thin to "get" the kind of guy who would be good enough for me, but even that seems not to be the case.
I could lose weight "for me" but what the fuck does that mean? "Do it for yourself!" people tell me all the time. But for myself what? What exactly am I doing for me?
I'm not being facetious and I am not looking for shrill responses. I am simply saying that I don't know that I believe in the intrinsic, inherent value of thin for thin's sake.
Oh, I know if I lose weight that I'll be more attractive to people, that I'll fit into clothes better, that I'll feel less clunky...
...but those things alone aren't enough.
Just what is it I will have/get/achieve from going through this that I can't have/get/achieve now?
I obviously don't know. But I can assure you the weight will start melting away as soon as I do.