by Loretta C
My friend Cate said “you should write something for Fit is a Feminist Issue.”
I thought, “I don’t belong on that blog. I am the most unfit I have ever been in my life.”
I am, and always have been, fat. I am 47 years old, and for thirty-some years I went up and down on the weight spectrum, losing weight through diet and exercise and then over time gaining it back, and then again, and then again, a few pounds heavier each time. You know the drill.
The last time I ran through the cycle, eight years ago, I lost weight with the help of trainer, who was great. I lost sixty pounds, I felt strong and fit. I had MUSCLES. I still had a belly and hips and still shopped in the plus-size stores, but for a brief period of time I was actually willing to wear short skirts because my legs looked great.
And then the slow and inevitable weight gain happened. I couldn’t stop it. I saw a counselor for a while, convinced I was sabotaging myself in some subconscious way. That didn’t help. Nothing helped. The weight came back, plus the extra twenty pounds. I wandered through the period of shame and self-hatred, and then I said “enough”. I read some things, I learned some things, I accepted that I would never be one of the 5% who is able to maintain a significant weight loss. I decided I would practice Health at Every Size instead. I would move my body for the joy of it, because it felt good, because I slept better and thought better and generally was better at being me when I moved my body regularly. I changed my language to talk about movement rather than exercise, to avoid the echoes of decades of failed weight loss regimes. And for a few years, this is what I practiced.
But the last couple of years, I haven’t been able to.
The one good thing I thought I had retained from all those regimes was that I did, in fact, know what it was like to feel good in my body. I never, in all those diets, got anything like “thin”, but I did get to a place where I felt strong, and fit, and powerful. I hiked up mountains in New Zealand. I stood up on the pedals in spin class and sprinted, my heart pounding and my lungs working, and felt absolutely fierce. I lay in corpse pose at the end of an Ashtanga class and felt my sweaty, tired body whisper “thank you for that” to my mind.
I know, through repeated experience, that even when I feel my fattest and unhealthiest – struggling to tie shoelaces, huffing up a flight of stairs – I know that if I manage to get out walking, or get to the gym, or get to some yoga classes, if I can get a couple of weeks of regular movement in, my body will start to feel better. The flexibility will return, my lungs will be happier. I know that once I get started, the more I move, the more I want to move.
I know this. I know it in my mind, and in my body, and in my heart. I know what I need to do to feel better.
So why can’t I do it?
Depression is undoubtedly part of it. Possibly menopause. Busy schedule, sure. Logistics and excuses, oh yes. I have lots of those. I have also read all the tips and tricks about building habits and getting a buddy and putting it in my calendar and giving myself rewards, etc. etc. But those are all just tricks. And these days, tricks just aren’t cutting it.
And so for the last two years or so, I haven’t been moving in any regular way. Once in a while I get out for a walk. And I congratulate myself and make a date for the next walk. And it usually doesn’t happen.
There are two things I have been able to keep doing for my own health, my own mental and emotional fitness, two things I don’t have to trick myself into doing. The first is my meditation practice. I have been meditating for 12 years, more or less continuously, with a few longish gaps here and there. When I first started it was really hard to do it regularly. It wasn’t until I went on a week-long retreat that it became a habit – something I did, rather than something I should do.
The second thing is writing. I only really started writing regularly about 5 years ago, but it has stuck. Part of that is because I actually work with it as part of my meditation practice, following a teacher who works in the tradition of Natalie Goldberg. In that five years, I’ve maintained a pretty steady writing practice, written some short stories, and now I’m working on a novel.
The thing about both of these practices is not that I never stop doing them. I do stop. Sometimes for just a few days, sometimes for a few weeks, sometimes (in the case of writing) even a few months. But with both of them, after a certain period of time I just know – I need that. And once I do it once or twice, the habit is back. I don’t have to trick myself to meditate; I just need to remember.
And I don’t know why I can’t remember moving my body.
So for now, I keep trying. I have a new membership at a much cheaper gym than the one I didn’t go to for two years. I’ve gone twice. It was good. I’ll keep practicing meditation and writing. And I’ll keep trying to remember.
Loretta C is a queer fat woman. By day, she plays a federal civil servant. By night and weekend she writes, reads, meditates, plays on the internet, and hangs out with her awesome friends. And sometimes she tries to go for a walk and do some yoga.