The Resilient Five Pounds
The Resilient Five Pounds
I was obsessed with the number on the bathroom scale for most of my teenage, college, and early adult years. Many terms were thrown around to describe or diagnose my problems. Body dysmorphic disorder, eating disorder with compulsive exercising, bulimia, anorexia, etc. While I’ve sought help and dealt with the issues surrounding all of my, ahem, dysfunction, I catch myself reverting back to old thought processes every once in a while.
I’m told the important part is that I recognize and acknowledge when I’m struggling. For so long, I rarely took days off from exercise, citing that I was an endurance athlete and my body was used to it. But as with most things, neglect eventually caught up to me, and injuries forced much-needed rest out of me. I have a masters degree in kinesiology. It’s not like I didn’t know the importance of rest. I just didn’t make it a priority in my life because exercise was an unhealthy coping mechanism when life became difficult.
For the past couple years, I’ve actually practiced good rest and recovery in my daily life. When I relocated to the Midwest, I joined Orangetheory Fitness with my cousin. A little over a year later, I got a job there. I haven’t had a major overuse injury since I joined. I forced myself to exercise hard for the one-hour classes and ignored the irresponsible “need” to exercise for more hours at home. I started taking two days off each week, and I stopped being so overly restrictive with my diet. For the first time since the divorce and leaving the Secret Service, my life had some balance, especially in the health and wellness aspects. I felt better, and I started running faster than I ever thought I could. It’s amazing what appropriate self-care does to performance. Go figure.
But… that doesn’t mean I don’t have moments when I am overly critical of myself or struggle with old habits.
I’ll be moving into a new place soon so I’ve been going through my belongings. I don’t like clutter or excess “stuff” so there’s not a lot to sort and pack. But I came across some pants I hadn’t seen since I left Los Angeles. I tried them on the other day, and they fit in the waist but not in the butt or thighs. I got really mad and upset about it. I looked at myself and hated what I saw. How dare this body not fit into my old pants after I’ve been healthy and taking care of it. My reward for such behavior should be a thinner frame, I thought. I brought it up with a friend shortly after.
“I’m officially no longer LA skinny,” I whined.
“Ah, my friend. But you’re Orangetheory strong,” she countered.
My first thought was “I don’t want to be strong. I want to be skinny.” But the more I thought about it, the more I realized how resilient my thirty-four-year-old body has been over the years. I have not appreciated this resilience. It’s accomplished a lot under less-than-ideal circumstances and proven a lot of doubters wrong.
This body has been strong when I haven’t felt strong enough to handle the demands placed on it.
When I was twenty-two, I went through eight months in a federal law enforcement academy. I felt underqualified for most of it but came out on top. When I was twenty-seven, I passed the Secret Service Rescue Swimmer school, one of the most physically demanding accomplishments of my life. Not too many women can claim this title. Over the years, this body has been through two Ironman 70.3’s, two ultra-marathons, three marathons, a couple dozen half marathons and long trail races, open water swimming, among other random races. My body has done some pretty amazing things. Rather than be grateful, I neglected myself and spent a long time dealing with avoidable injuries.
Just a couple weeks ago, I ran a half marathon four minutes faster than I’d ever gone before. I’ll admit the long extra training runs to prepare were a struggle because the temptation to add to an already healthy exercise regimen after the race crept into my thoughts. My body has given me sore and tired reminders that I still need to take those days off. I’m not perfect, and I’ve had to check myself a few times lately.
A tight old pair of pants didn’t help matters. The scale’s couple extra pounds and the “booty gains” didn’t help, either.
For a couple days after the tight pants fiasco, all I did was analyze and measure and criticize the body that has served me so well my whole life. Where I saw flaws, I should have seen how those flaws made me grow.
The scars on my shins annoy me, but they were earned at academies and races that tested my resolve and mental toughness. That dimple on my hamstring has been there since high school. No matter how skinny I’ve been, it’s always been there. I hate it, but I gave up shamefully hiding it years ago because I can’t do anything about it. Over the years, a couple more have shown up too. Those half-removed tattoos on my arms remind me that I still have unfinished business in this life. My face has way less Botox and laser treatments now than it did when I had a cushy six-figure income. Sometimes when I see new lines on my face, I still make an appointment to freeze the inevitable aging process temporarily. Maybe it’s vanity. Maybe it’s just that thing I do to make myself feel better like some put on makeup, buy a new outfit, or get their nails done. I’ve just chosen not to feel guilty about it anymore.
I liked those old pants, but I didn’t like the woman who used to fit into them a little less snugly than she did the other day. And let’s just be honest. They weren’t that much tighter than before. I’m inside my own head most of the time.
My body has changed in the last couple years, though. The scale is a couple pounds heavier, but I went out to dinner with friends and laughed. The LA skinny version of me would have ordered a celery juice at a juice bar and nibbled on a couple cashews while watching Netflix alone. My booty has an extra half inch or so in there, but I can run a mile faster today than I could when I was a twenty-two-year-old in the Secret Service academy. The LA skinny version of me walked everywhere to burn those extra nonexistent calories. Sometimes I still feel gross when I take a rest day, but I usually dominate my workout the next day because recovery is directly proportional to performance.
Maybe my attitude today is reflective of growth and healing. Maybe it’s a sign of maturity and appropriate perspective.
I’d rather carry around a couple extra pounds and get out with friends more. I’d rather climb those hills on the bike like a boss because I’ve picked up heavier weights at Orangetheory and put in the work. I’d rather forego lasering that harmless sunspot on my face than give up those long sunny outdoor runs with wonderful people. I’d rather sleep in on my day off and lazily drink coffee and eat a gluten-filled bagel with loved ones than hurriedly avoid social interactions to purge the alleged “excess” I’d consumed.
Sure, I’d love to look in the mirror and see a skinnier person. But let’s face it. I never saw that LA skinny body in the mirror when the scale showed a different number than today. I’ve never been overweight in my life. I was incapable of seeing anything positive about myself back then. Making the scale go back five pounds wouldn’t change anything.
My friend was right the other day. I chose to see myself as no longer being LA skinny over a snug pair of pants, but I’m really a much stronger version of myself all around. And you know what? That’s a version of myself that’s starting to grow on me, and I have a feeling that’s a really good thing.