Under these 40 extra pounds I’m wearing, there is an injured runner clawing to get out. A runner on the mend. The injury that sidelined me was almost three years ago to the day. I gained over a third of my entire body weight within that first year of injury, like a speeding train without warning. There isn’t any way to disguise all the extra weight. Believe me when I say I’ve tried, and tried. Disgusted each time I’d catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror or heaven forbid a photograph. All of this bulking heft and extra chins. I am unrecognizable to myself.
Women constantly remind me just how fat I’d become…strangers though, never friends. It seems so innocent, so benign, a women pointing three ahead of her in a crowded line to me, saying loudly to her daughter “Look honey, that woman is pregnant” only I was NOT pregnant. “I wish they had cute maternity clothes like that when I was having a baby” when I was NOT wearing maternity clothes. Females assuming that anyone trying as hard as I was to mask the circumference of my waist, which is now the measurement my hips used to be, must be hiding a pregnancy.
So far it had been just women. Except today it was a man. A man from my business networking group who has seen me, heavier than he thinks I should be. This man doesn’t know anything about me really, has only seen the fat me. Never met the real me, the old me, the healthy runner me, the wanna be yogi me, the avid kick boxer me. He only knows the pent up and angry me with no way to exercise her demons away.
He approached me while I was mid conversation with another person, “I wanted to give you this weight loss bar,” he said cheerfully. My day ruined before 8:45 am.
“I wanted to give you this weight loss bar.” A completely, utterly unprovoked and insulting conversation starter about my weight problem.
“I wanted to give you this weight loss bar.” Can you imagine? Someone having the balls to walk up to you, here fat ass I brought you a diet in a wrapper, you sure look like you could use it.
I wanted to punch him in his gleeful face. Hard. Physically assault him by splintering those fucking glasses against his forehead with the heel of my hand. Always the heel of your hand ladies, always. Your elbow, knee and heel of hand are the hardest parts of the body. Please don’t believe that Hollywood bullshit that you can break a guy’s face with your delicate manicured fist. You won’t. You will break your hand and limit yourself to one ineffectual punch. So, smash face, rip out hair in clumps leaving bits of scalp still attached. Tear at his face with my nails then finish the mauling with a kick to the groin. Leave him there curled on the ground in the fetal position, teeny tiny weight loss bar forgotten off to the side.
After the beating I could use the remaining time we had together before the police arrive to have a calmer, more productive conversation on why I specifically DON’T need a diet bar. Fat as I am.
For the first 27 years of my life I lived calorie restriction. Lived it, breathed it, every fucking angle of it. I only knew food dysfunction. There wasn’t a side of a diet that I hadn’t explored or existed on. At some point in the day whether I was seven or seventeen I was starving and deprived. My mother refused to cook and she was constantly on a diet therefore I was constantly on a diet. Do you know how impossible it is to starve yourself Kate Moss heroine thin while only dining on pizza, Chinese takeout and McDonalds meals?! Often I only ate one meal a day because a McDonalds Happy Meal is an entire days worth of calories. And we counted calories.
Add in all of the misery of adolescents with its self consciousness and female comparison. For inspiration I used to look to magazines with their supermodels, whose thighs never touched. A horse could ride off in the sunset between those enviable spaces where thighs should be. During all the years of my deprivation, even in my thinnest summer, which occurred when I was 19, subsisting on nothing but Slim fast shakes; I shed enough weight for the scale to read a number I hadn’t seen since twelve and even then it was a weight I passed quickly through, my thighs touched.
A bar isn’t going to help me lose weight. Yes, technically calorie restriction works to a point but I gained 40 pounds. For those of you who don’t like math, I will do it for you. I would have to eliminate 140,000 calories from my diet to lose the weight. One Hundred Forty Thousand less calories. That ain’t happening.
“I wanted to give you this weight loss bar.”
While I did not punch him in the face, I did hiss menacingly. “This bar isn’t going to help me lose weight. See ALL of these ingredients?” I attempted to recite the long list of chemicals that comprised this piece of … food? See this uh mono gyro glicericydes? I failed to pronounce the first one so I gave up and prattled on, “I don’t need all of these ingredients to lose weight. In fact, all of these ingredients won’t help me lose weight. I need real food like fruits and vegetables and lots of exercise. Exercise and a healthy diet will help me lose weight.” I spoke unusually fast, no spaces, commas or pauses for him to interrupt. I shoved the bar back into his still outstretched hand. To this day the anger has not subsided.
While everyone else values the diet bar pushers and will buy any pill that promises to help them shed pounds. I, don’t. I am not lying to myself. I found my answer and that answer is running. Running forces me to eat better, forces me to sleep more and make better decisions to keep the running as pain free as running can be. I won’t lie to you either. It takes discipline, hard work and a bit of sacrifice. It’s not quick, in fact is the farthest corner from quick.
I was forty pounds overweight because my injury had me on the sidelines unable to bear the pain of regular tasks let alone exercise. The only way for me to remove 140,000 extra calories is to run them off. It took most of my adult life but I eventually figured it out. I do not want to starve myself thin. As much as exercise is hard even downright painful, it has more benefits than simply eliminating calories. I never felt satisfied at the end of a day of dieting. Not once. I felt an overwhelming desire for a basic and most human act. Eating. No matter how much my brain is bitching while on my runs, afterward there is a satisfaction that is cloaked in endorphins and dopamine. I never felt like I achieved anything on a diet. Every run makes me feel like something has been accomplished.
Dieting off forty pounds would leave folds of extra flesh soft and hanging. Exercise builds muscle tone filling in that skin and giving it definition as well as a way to hold myself erect. Dieting is a one for one. On a diet, one less calorie in, is just that, one less calorie. Your body becomes militant in how efficient it will be with fewer calories. The human body is the best robotic machine out there and without your conscious effort it works to be more efficient. It rewards fewer calories with requiring less calories. You can’t not eat, you can’t eliminate all the calories as your body makes due with the less and less you give it.
Exercising is one calorie burned with a healthy side effect of more calories burned at rest. You need more fuel to burn as your body builds up, not tears down. This body is supposed to last my lifetime. I can’t be too starved and muscle deficient to lift myself out of a chair or walk up a flight of stairs. A diet bar doesn’t improve my cardiovascular health and doesn’t help me sleep better at night. Diet bars don’t sweat out the toxins and leave my skin pink and flushed with effort. Diet bars don’t give me strength, mental or physical. Dieting doesn’t leave me spent but satisfied. Diet bars don’t put me out in the fresh air where I can see a bit of nature. Running does. I’m a runner. I subscribe to the idea that miles of self punishment will bring me to the other side, saved.
We want it to be easy. It’s not. Despite the rhetoric, parking further away, doesn’t count as exercise. Taking the stairs, no matter how many times we read it in the magazines with the ladies whose thighs don’t touch, doesn’t shed pounds. Exerting ourselves until our heart threatens to pound right through our chests and maintaining that exertion while sweat pours off parts of our body that we didn’t know had sweat glands. Over and over and over again until it feels good instead of bad. That kind of exercise burns calories and gets us into shape so we are too addicted to stop.
Even relaying this story now, two years after its occurrence, I still envision myself choking the man with the diet bar; sometimes it’s the rear choke hold, sometimes straight on, looking in his eyes while I squeeze out the breath that gasps, “You need this diet bar”. Sometimes the vision is MMA style, his head between my thunderous thighs that always touch giving him one last squeeze even after he tapped out with the hand that previously held the bar.
But, attacking this man, even as he insults me at the start of a workday would be deemed unacceptable by societal standards to which I shout “shenanigans”! What should be unacceptable is walking up to a relative stranger at a business networking group and offering a woman who is dealing with an injury a weight loss bar.