A crisis, no matter how insignificant to others, is more likely to get us off our butts than a red circle on the calendar. You may be fat — and unhealthy because of it — but until you look in the mirror naked, bawl yourself red and puffy, and then get pissed off, you’re not going to have the means necessary to take action.
A few years ago I felt disgusted with myself and had fallen into a regular routine of fried food and self-loathing. I deliberately avoided the mirror until one day I had to use it to do my hair. I inadvertently caught sight of my body. Instead of going out that day, I just stood there and cried – and cried and cried. I’d done this before, which was why I avoided the mirror, but this time was different because something followed the tears that hadn’t before: anger. This was a crisis of the heart, both literally and figuratively.
The mental health community will tell you there is no right or wrong to feelings – and then strongly encourage you to “manage” them. Manage, schmanage. These feelings are legitimate, and they are the very tools I needed to make changes in my life. I’m not just talking out my ass here – but if I were, I’d be talking out the ass that’s quite a bit smaller than it used to be for my having realized the motivation, strength, and agility that can come from anger, disgust, and self-loathing.
This brings me to the New Year’s resolutions I highly recommend no sane person make. The insane are on their own.
Go On A Diet
If there were a diet that worked, the author of said diet would be unspeakably rich. I don’t mean a mere multi-millionaire; I mean s/he would share a spot on Forbes’ list with Bill Gates. Also, if there were a diet that really worked, there’d be no more fat people.
I didn’t change the way I ate until I just couldn’t stomach another slice of grease-laden pepperoni pizza dipped in ranch dressing. Until then, I had to accept myself for the grease-laden pepperoni pizza dipped in ranch dressing-eating person I was. Having done that, I would later find myself looking at a slice of pizza in a very different way.
I didn’t eat less bad food. I ate more good food – and I didn’t start doing that on any first day of January. I started doing that on no particular day about two years ago. I was getting into my car and noticed the rainbow-esque reflection from a puddle of antifreeze in the gutter. It looked like the grease that would pool in the crevices of my pizza. Something in my brain said, “Oh, so pretty. Oh, so toxic.”
It didn’t take very much good food before I realized my body had been sending definite signals about bad food for years, signals I’d somehow come to ignore or at least disassociate from whenever they followed the glorious combination that is pizza and ranch dressing. It became increasingly difficult to abide the rock-in-my-gut feeling or how tired I became after eating anything fried or greasy. It was especially hard to ignore imminent lethargy when I realized how much better I felt after eating a bowl of mashed potatoes with a huge helping of green beans followed by a slew of strawberries.
Once I was eating more good food than bad (c’mon, no one who does this successfully quits eating bad food altogether), I found myself noticeably thinner, or rather just not as fat. I was still the same dress size, but my jeans didn’t cut into me and I saw something in the mirror I hadn’t seen in years: my waist. I found myself wanting – yes, wanting – to do a little bit more.
The fitness industry is another part of the American Dream that has made many rich, but still no one person or business in that industry is as rich as Bill Gates. This isn’t because exercise doesn’t work. It most certainly does. Picture an all-day sucker on a treadmill, though, and you’ll know why that industry isn’t raking in America’s dollars the way Mr. Gates does. Just about everyone is willing to pay for technology. Not everyone is willing to pay to walk on it.
That isn’t why I cast exercise off my list of resolutions, though (and the list itself set aflame). Exercise is just like eating better. I wasn’t going to do it until I was fed up (pardon the pun) with myself. I don’t mean the kind of fed up wherein my delusions of being only “slightly” overweight weren’t working for me anymore. I mean the kind of fed up that haunted my dreams, where I could see my own reflection in that pool of antifreeze.
Having mulled that image over for a few months, I felt a tinge of motivation to get up and move around, but it was marred by previous – and failed – attempts to get into shape: aerobics, water aerobics, spinning class, a walking club, and one horrible mistake we’ll call belly dancing. That was the name of the class, but that sure as hell wasn’t what my body was doing. This time I was going to make sure it was something I liked to do. Walking is for walkers and running is for runners, neither of which am I. I’m also not a swimmer, a rock climber, or a gymnast.
I spent my youth playing handball against the sidewall of a fire department in West Wichita and I kicked ass at it. Even with the onset of my 40th birthday some years ago, I dreamt of the day I might return to my former glory. So it was to be — relatively speaking — with the purchase of a racquetball and racquet.
To be fair, my husband helped out a lot. He started out by getting mad whenever I whined and complained about being fat. He flatly ignored my every expressed intention of doing something about it because I never followed through. He refused to have conversations that started with “Do you think I’m still pretty?” and he walked out of a department store when I lamented that I was still the same dress size.
He finished up by purchasing racquetball equipment and was sitting there at the kitchen table, tapping on said equipment, when I walked in. He had a look of disdain he normally reserved for people who mistreat small animals, and dared me to call his bluff.
We would eventually stumble into our racquetball groove, but not before repeatedly plowing into each other and hitting each other with the ball. I’ve had two black eyes (goggles only help keep eyeballs in place) and a salad plate-sized bruise on my ass that hurt so bad I thought for sure I would kill him when the pain ebbed. I maintain it was an accident when weeks later I would hit the ball straight into his left cheekbone. He hit the floor like a lead weight. Seriously, I felt bad about that.
It took weeks before the muscle in my forearm quit aching and my elbow stopped begging me to take up needlepoint, but it was worth it. In less than a year I’ve lost more than 30 pounds and a few dress sizes, and I eat more than I ever have. I eat mostly good food, but I eat a lot of it. My knees have stopped hurting, and I can chase after a small child without getting winded. I have muscle, energy, balance, and speed – things that have been in short supply for many, many years.
The Only Good Resolution:
The one you make on no particular day.