Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Facing the Fear

As I was finishing up my final paper for my ethnography of communication class (I studied my running group!) I wanted to track down an article Peter Sagal wrote for his Road Scholar column in Runner's World.  I stumbled across an older column instead, called "A Thin Line," which really struck home for me. Basically Sagal accounts how he bounced up and down, always obsessed with weight, which he remarks is "far, far more common than you might suppose among amateur athletes."  I could totally relate to his experience (though I usually bounce up and down 5-10 lbs, not 30 or more).

It was when I read the following, though, that I really stopped and thought:
It's not about being fat. I know people of all shapes whose sense of self is blessedly untethered from their weight. It's about the terror of what we might become if we allow ourselves to let go, to get weak, to slow down. I run now for a lot of reasons, for fitness and for times and for friendship and for the sheer pleasure of motion. But deep inside I know I'm also running because with every step, I'm leaving Plumpkin further behind. And I'm afraid if I ever stopped, he'd catch me, and consume me in his unending appetite, and I'd have to look back into the mirror from behind his frightened eyes.
The terror Sagal describes, I've also felt--what might I become if I stop running? Stop watching my weight? Stop going on a diet every so often, determined to "finally" get to my goal weight and size?  I go back and forth between not caring and deciding that drinking with my friends and eating delicious food is better than some imaginary goal number (as long as I'm a healthy weight, right?) to really, really wanting to be more fit and toned and feel good in my body.  I might have fun eating and drinking without thought of the consequences...but then I wake up the next morning and my body rejects my excesses and I feel terrible, my body unhappy with how I've treated it.

And I still fear the reemergence of that heavy girl, the one so shy and so insecure in herself that she constantly held herself back from living life, from talking to interesting people, from doing things in the world.  Seeing the "frightened eyes" in the mirror that Sagal describes.

I too run for more than just weight management.  I ran 4 miles today with relatively little pain, and I felt amazing.  I followed it up with a lovely, healthy meal, and I felt fantastic.  I'm working through all these little issues with the hopes that maybe one day, I can be "blessedly untethered" from my weight.  To give my body what it needs and to enjoy food without worrying about what others think, that I'm eating too much, that I'm going to put all the weight back on and have to, once again, swear that I'm going to eat better and run more.

I'm starting to realize that becoming healthier is not just about eating right and exercising--I can do that.  It's dealing with all this emotional baggage, my fears and worries, that is the hard part, the part I've refused to deal with more publicly until recently.  I know some of my readers might get tired of hearing about this stuff, but I hope you'll bear with me (and I plan to post lots of other interesting things) as I use this writing space to come to terms with it all...

And, on a happier note, it's almost summertime! :)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well I, for one, am REALLY glad that you're writing about this! It makes me feel like i'm not alone.

I've been pondering through all of these same issues, and i've found that it DOES all boil down to me--caring too much about how other people might perceive me. Which is stupid. I'm strong and healthy and if anyone has a problem with the cellulite on my butt they can suck it.

Maybe even literally.

I recently hid my scale from myself...