It takes photographic proof now, because people who meet me for the first time refuse to believe that I ever used to be fat. Part of the belief system of Being a Fat Person includes resenting fit people, because they are obviously “born that way.” I hate to say that I used to buy into this attitude. I had a lot of negative beliefs about exercise, about health food, about people who go to the gym. My outlook changed, but my physical form and my activities changed first. As I shifted into this radically different energy, I began sifting through and testing out various ideas about fitness, food, and body image.
Some ideas I rejected. That’s always fun to do. I have remained unmoved by beliefs relating to team sports, for instance. Some people respond intuitively to ideas about working together as a unit or always bringing everything you have for your team. I won’t rule that out, but at this point in life it hasn’t really clicked for me. I’m not particularly motivated by the idea of one of my exes seeing my newly fit form and feeling jealous; revenge doesn’t do it for me, for one thing, but I also happen to know that at least a few of my exes prefer big girls. (I just never thought I was one). I’m completely deaf to the appeals of the Paleo lifestyle. I don’t feel the call to win a race or set a world record in anything. I don’t particularly want to be physically attractive or look a certain way in the trend of the moment. On the contrary, it’s unlikely I would even recognize the trend of the moment, just as I have to think hard to remember which sports season it’s supposed to be.
There are a lot of ideas about fitness that I do find convincing, though. As with every change I have made, the list of things I like about it gets longer as I get deeper into the experience. This is how change happens. We talk ourselves into it. We learn so much that we are fully convinced it’s the best way. The old way starts to look less and less attractive in comparison, until finally, we can barely believe we ever thought or acted that way. It’s true of the way I chop onions and it’s true of the way I maintain my physical health, too.
Here is my list, in no particular order:
Athletic people are experiencing life in a different way, a way that I know nothing about, and that seems worth exploring.
Smaller body, smaller clothes, smaller laundry piles, smaller suitcase. QED.
I can set an example for younger girls and women of physical strength that I never saw in women when I was young.
It’s my body to do with as I will.
Strength training is no less valid a form of personal expression than other body modifications, including tattoos, piercings, tooth bleaching, hair dye, manicures, make-up, fashion, or even cosmetic surgery.
On two occasions, I have been attacked on the street by strange men. I was able to run to safety.
I wear a size zero (or smaller, unfortunately). As much cultural hysteria as there is around this mystical size, it is perfectly within a “normal” size range for vintage clothes. I’m the exact height and weight of Betty Grable, although I’m bigger in the waist, thigh, calf, and ankle.
I can do things with my body that are illegal in many parts of the world, and would not have been allowed for me in my own culture just a short time ago. Like voting, I feel a responsibility to my foremothers to make the best possible use of my freedom to run and hike and travel alone.
When I walk, run, or bike outdoors, I’m adding to the safety of my neighborhood. The more people are outside, the more witnesses and phones and video cameras. When I was a kid, children could play outside and walk to school, and I think we can and should bring that back.
There is Alzheimer’s Disease in my family tree. I have every reason to follow Alzheimer’s research and to modify my lifestyle to delay onset or reduce my risk. That includes exercise, eating a diet low in sugar and saturated fat, and the same factors that reduce risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Being fit feels good. It feels good by itself, but it also feels good to be able to do things easily that used to be difficult.
People on planes are excited when I ask to sit in the middle seat. They’ve even waved me over.
My husband can pick me up and carry me down the hall.
I suspect I could probably pick him up, too, but he won’t let me.
I can fit in a child’s Halloween costume or tutu if I so desire.
I feel totally confident wearing a swimsuit in public. A bikini, even.
You can only see my stretch marks now if I show you where to look. I don’t even have cellulite on my thighs anymore.
If someone yells “RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!” I know exactly how fast I can go, and for how long.
I’m faster than a speeding toddler running toward traffic, although I hope I don’t have to prove it again…
Exercise reliably elevates mood. The more strenuous the activity, the longer I do it, the more often I do it, the better the results.
I’m 40 and I don’t need any pharmaceuticals or medical appliances. I’d rather spend that money on other things.
All my “numbers” are on target, including blood pressure, fasting glucose, lipid panel, resting heart rate, waist/hip ratio, percent body fat, and BMI.
I no longer have to spend time arguing over whether BMI is valid for the individual, because I don’t feel defensive about my health metrics.
I can sit on the floor and get back up again without holding on to anything.
Not only that, I can climb a fence, climb a rope, and do a pull-up.
I can open jars.
I know how to calculate how many calories to pack on backwoods expeditions.
I can still eat everything I used to eat when I was fat. Now, I can do it without the guilt or recriminations, because I have more information.
I’m fitter now than I was when I was 30, and MUCH fitter than when I was 20. There is every reason to expect that I can be even fitter at 50 than I am now.
I don’t have to go to the chiropractor anymore.
I have something in common with more people now. When I go to a wedding or other social event, and see another woman with posture like mine, I know we can be deep in conversation in under a minute.
I can carry a 45-pound backpack. If you realize how big a deal that is and how much of the world that opens up, I might want to go on a trip with you.
I sometimes see photos of beautiful young actresses and celebrities, and realize I have better abs.
I have the cardio endurance to dance every song.
I can climb a tree with my nephews and niece.
The more we go out, the more my dog loves me.
My doctors always say, “Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it!” or “I wish all my patients were like you.” I convinced one of my doctors to take up triathlon, so I can claim the distinction that my doctor takes health advice from me!
I used to be chronically ill and fatigued. I had my cancer scare at age 23. I know everything I need to know about pain, about feeling trapped by fate, about feeling like my body was my enemy. It was a powerful learning experience in its own way. There are many other ways to experience living in a human body, and I’ve learned even more from trying out a few other options.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.