Thursday, February 28, 2013

I Lost A Person!! (and Why I Needed To)

It took me several days to write this post.  I took the picture for it over the weekend and have just now decided to do it.  I don't normally let post ideas percolate because they just become post ideas forgotten.  This one wasn't going to get forgotten.
Me and my lost person!

This is D.  She and I ran into each other at the time trial last weekend.  During the course of a conversation about weight and metabolism... she struggled to gain, I struggled to lose... we realized that she weighed the same amount I had lost.  It had to repeat that several times.  This was a whole person.  She might have been very slender but she was not unhealthy and she was quite a bit taller than me.  I used to carry an amount of adipose tissue equivalent to ALL of her, from the tip her nose to the top of her toes.  All of her.  All of this living, breathing, vibrant human being.  Skin, bones, muscle, blood, hair, teeth... ALL... that is how much extra fat I had on my body.

I don't think I could pick her up and carry her through a race.  I don't think I could navigate a flight of stairs with her on my back.  And yet, I lived my whole life like that.  I don't have any vast words of wisdom.  I am just a little dumbstruck.  I knew I needed to lose weight but I never, ever realized HOW MUCH!  Part of obesity is a certain numbness to the reality of your situation. You disconnect, disengage, disassociate, distance your mind from it.  The moment you really see yourself, you cannot live like that for a single minute so you keep it toned down.  Nobody can tell you and you probably won't even come to fully understand it until you are well into the process of change.  It's just not something that can be faced head on, at least it wasn't for me.

That disconnect happened when things got to be more than you could handle.  It probably started in some area of you life, perhaps not weight related, and spread like a cancer.  It started as an essential defense mechanism.  It was a way to quiet your brain up when it is totally horrified or outraged  to the point of wanting to stop the show but life MUST go on anyhow!  I still struggle with it every day.  I can disengage and procrastinate my way into a corner.  I can disengage my way out of a job.  I can disengage my way into years of misery in unhealthy, destructive relationships.  I can disengage my way into gaining more than 100 lbs.  There are many areas of my life I still struggle to face head on as is evidenced by the fact that this understanding came as such a shock.

If you know someone who is morbidly obese, they are most likely dealing with some powerful underlying emotions.  I am not talking about the guy who could be thirty pounds thinner if he'd lay off the beer and pizza.  You know who I mean.  If you stop for a moment, set all judgement aside, allow yourself to really have empathy, you know.  Pain radiates from people no matter how hard they try to hide it.  If you are someone who is like me in this respect, you may not know.  You may think you are 30 pounds of pizza and beer guy or heavy set with poor genetics girl, but there is more.  To see yourself without that filter you will have to reconnect, engage, bring it all into focus and that is truly too much.

For many people like myself, bringing life into sharp focus all at once it completely out of the question.  The demons that got me to this point didn't just decide to vacate the area and move to the tropics.  They are all still there.  What worked for me was taking the focus away from the weight.  I made it not about the weight.  I started with a personal trainer and it was about showing up for a scheduled appointment.  That's it.  Then I would shut my brain off again to get through the workout.  Then when I gained a tiny bit of fitness, I enjoyed it enough to focus on the task at hand.  That became the focus for a long time.  Once I had already seen some weight loss, I started making the dietary changes that were easy.  Cut out the calories that you weren't all that attached to, leaving all the tough fights for later.  I also didn't think I was capable of being a SMALL person so when I did start thinking about weight loss, I set my goal weights much higher.  I truly believed I was a fundamentally large person that had about 40 pounds to lose.  

As I worked my way through this journey, I got stronger and each step was manageable.  What would have been way too much at first was a manageable change later on.  You don't start off running 26.2 miles.  You start off running 26.2 seconds.  Then much farther down the road, you realize that ten miles didn't seem like much because last week you ran nine.  Then one day it's fifteen, then twenty... until finally... 25 becomes 26.2.  It is the same way with weight loss or any other radical overhaul of your life.  Take on too much, too fast, and the race is over.

After we talked for a while, took pictures and talked about the fact that I wanted to write this post, I told her the name of the blog.  She freaked a little.  She knew me, my name.  We had met before.  I knew her when I lived in Florida but we hadn't seen each other in a couple of years.  She didn't recognize me without the extra pounds.

I am now at a reasonably healthy weight and focused on weight loss for performance's sake.  I have probably 25 pounds left to lose, maybe less, but somehow that doesn't seem that hard anymore.  But if you'd told me a few years ago that I needed to lose 115-125 lbs?  I'd have shut down and given up before I started.

Me and my former roommate.  She is another person that didn't recognize me at first on Sunday.


  1. Wow, I had no idea. When you kind of "get to know" a person when they are fit it's easy to assume they have always been that way and not think that perhaps they struggled to get where they are.

    The first line of your "About Me" says "I am an average person..."

    I've got news for are NOT an average person. It sounds like you committed to the change, hung in there, and did it. That is not average. That is very significant.

    Congratulations and thanks for sharing :-)

    1. Thanks. As one of my earliest readers, you know I didn't really talk about it for a long time on this blog. I guess I felt like it made me flawed as an athlete and since I have spent a lot of my life feeling like damaged goods, I avoided the topic. I started talking about it occasionally (clearly I was stealthy with those posts!) a while back but never really wanting to make a fuss about it.

      Steve Prefontaine said "Success isn't how far you got, but the distance traveled from where you started."

      I have felt like as I have peeled back the layers, I have gotten closer to the person I was always meant to be. I can't ponder the amount of squandered potential I see in myself, so instead I have made up my mind to do my best with what's left. As I have discovered who I really am, I am finding that I am who I always was. The roadmap was there when I was very young. I just got lost for a while. Ironic that I said "I am an average person on a journey to find out what kind of athlete I can become." I think I can become the athlete that I was on my way to becoming when I was 8. I just took a really BIG detour!! Now that I see that I am going to reclaim at least some of that potential, it is easier to deal with the topic in general.

      I hope that makes sense.