“Hi! Good to see you again! It’s been a while!”, said the gym staff member. “What have you been doing?”
It’s tough to encapsulate a year’s worth of non-gym attendance into a single constructive sentence, but as I fast-rewound 2016 that was the best I could come up with. She looked at me again and nodded. My answer was more obviously correct than I’d hoped, particularly when she then commented that I “used to” look really good.
I don’t know quite what happened to 2016. I was already fit through gym work when I started running in late 2013, had developed my fitness through 2014 into 2015, ran my first two marathons in 2015…but by the end of the year was slithering off the non-binge-eating wagon.
Come the Gasparilla Distance Challenge in Tampa in February 2016 I was hanging on to my fitness by a thread. The 15K and 5K races on Saturday morning followed by the Half Marathon and 8K races on the Sunday morning were as fun as they were satiating and by the time I was done with that event, without knowing it I was likewise done for the time being with good diet and exercise.
By Christmas 2016 I was looking down at 220lb – 25lbs more than my New York Marathon running (over)weight from 13 months prior – and hoping that my registration for the 2017 Chicago Marathon would be motivation to turn it around in the new year. It wasn’t. And it wasn’t for the same reason as always: I’m a compulsive eater, so any time I am without the presence of a more powerful force than my natural compulsions, to the snack drawer and fridge I go.
Body-shaming tactics on fat people sometimes run along the lines of, “There’s a thin person in there waiting to get out”, as if that’s ever helped anyone. In my case however, I AM a fat person, regardless of what I look like. From time to time and for a time, I don’t look like one, but 2016 was in one sense merely a return to a more faithful representation of my true self. (And NO, there is nothing intrinsically ugly about fatness, but in my case it always represents unhealthy living.)
One problem is that no one instance of over-eating ‘breaks’ anything, and one day’s bingeing will – in the absolute worst case, result in putting on less than a pound of weight (if I binge-DRANK it would be worse, but I don’t). So putting on weight isn’t the result of a fateful decision, but of a series of bad decisions that quickly form a vicious cycle. I’m desperate to eat, the next ice cream won’t kill me, so I eat the ice cream…it doesn’t kill me…then I feel bad about eating the ice cream because I’ve failed to control myself again plus I feel bloated, but want another ice cream more than ever, and another ice cream won’t kill me, so…
…and whammo, there I am large again and eating everything I can find that doesn’t need to be cooked.
All of us have a shape that we’re happy with, a shape that we’re content with, and a shape that makes us feel bad about ourselves. I’m quite fortunate in that when I put on weight, I spread it around whereas for some people it’ll all go straight to the hips or (particularly for naturally skinny men, it seems), entirely into the gut. So I can pile on about 30lbs before I become obviously overweight, but once I get there it feels that all hope of a healthy weight is lost and the effect snowballs. And that’s where I was towards the end of 2016.
But I’ve been down this road before (up to 255lbs), I have a keen sense of my body’s relative ineptitude at creating good lipids and over-keenness at creating bad ones. I’ve felt overwhelming guilt at what I was doing to my family by becoming obese and I’ve had the stark warnings from doctors (“You’ll be dead in 10-15 years if you keep this up”, which I heard 8 years and 60lbs ago). So in the grace of God when I hit 220lbs I put the brakes on, and by April 2017 I was back into a strict regime of tracking EVERYTHING I eat, keeping to an unbending calorie limit and trying to get the right balance of fat/carb/protein. And then I started training for Chicago…
…but I’ll get back to that.
I haven’t blogged about running in over two and half years and this was supposed to be my review of the Berlin Marathon, but apparently I’m not ready to write about that just yet. I haven’t even written about the Disney and Chicago Marathon experiences, because I’ve had other things on my mind.