I wasn’t always this Hell-bent, crazy person determined to be a “real” athlete. In fact, for most of my life, I’ve thought that marathoners were a little bit insane. I was the pathetic pudgy child in grade school gym class, who had a mastery of creative excuses to avoid the horror of being made to run around the soccer field in the lifesucking humidity of St. Louis Indian summers.
It was only in my 20s that I discovered that running wasn’t so awful. Well, no, it was, but I took a certain joy in mastering it. While children seem to sensibly avoid torture, adults, on the other hand, take some kind of masochistic joy in it. Minute by minute of sweat and heart and lung-popping lurching on the treadmill produced a low level of cardio fitness and, eventually, 30 or so pudgy pounds off. Oh, that torture was magical!
Of course, life happens and, before you learn to roll with the punches, you get knocked down over and over. I gained weight and lost weight over the years and through numerous locations and degrees. Running was a torture I returned to over and over to attempt to shed the flubber that kept rudely attaching itself to my derriere.
When I moved to Los Angeles and began looking for work, I swore that I would keep running in order to thwart the evil flub and, in my mind’s eye, whittle me down to a more Hollywood-friendly size. However, displacement and unemployment took a toll on me and I began eating to cope with the stress of feeling like a directionless loser with a worthless Journalism degree. Depression stopped my legwork, and the running fell off, and, slowly, the flub began to consume me.
When I finally did get a job, after leaving my many skills and advanced degree off of my resume in an effort to just find SOMETHING, it was nothing of what I’d hoped. The place was a dreary den of misogyny, where one boss relished making the female employees of the company collapse into tears after he screamed into the phone from his office in Puerto Rico and hung up on them, and the other boss apparently expected women to be seen and not heard, telling me, at one point, that I had, “Too much personality.” Times were tough, economically, so I bore through it, but not before burrowing through boxes of candy, cookies and other delights, daily.
I started a vicious cycle of binge eating. I was like Ms Pacman, insatiable, shoving food into my mouth all day long, all evening long, until I collapsed, like a gorged tick, into bed at night. Every morning I would resolve to eat healthfully, and I would start with a light yogurt and a banana, but then everything fell apart by midday, and I returned to the binge. It was just too intoxicating, that decadent boost I got from grabbing a chocolate caramel and letting it melt in my mouth, doing that over and over, until I was stuffed to the kills with sugar.
“This is out of control,” I would tell myself. I knew that I had to stop. My pants got tighter and tighter. Occasionally I would head down to the beach for a run with my petite coworker who used to run track in high school. Of course, I would just end up feeling like a beached whale, flopping and blowing on the strand, while my friend would glide gracefully along the beach, next to the waves, all firm and sleek, like a dolphin. I began working long hours to both please my bosses and to avoid having to embarrass myself on the strand. I watched as my coworker laced up her shoes and took off. As soon as she left, I would grab candy or cookies from the kitchen area and gorge.
I knew that my eating was out of control, but it continued to worsen. It was making me antisocial. Some days I would prefer to stay in and pig out, scarfing an entire calzone and a piece of cake in one sitting. Once, I remember spending time with a good friend and making an excuse about having something to do just so that I could go home and carry on my lascivious love affair with food. I would order in from some of my favorite restaurants, the menu a playground of delicious possibilities. Once, a delivery guy from my favorite vegan restaurant looked at my order, then looked around and said, “Oh, you live alone?”
I did all of my eating alone, in secret. Most fat people do because they feel ashamed to eat what they like to eat in front of others. If I wasn’t eating a salad or fruit, I was eating it away from people.
I was now barely squeezing into a size 16 and I knew that people were judging me.
My dating life was non-existent, practically. I’d gone from getting a lot of attention at a size 12, to getting dirty looks from guys when I went out to bars and clubs with my daintier pals. I’d go on dating sites, only to be rejected by guys once they saw how big my butt was in person. I remember one guy in particular, a handsome young surgeon, with whom I had a brilliantly witty exchange over cocktails, and he left with a, “We should hang out again sometime.” And, of course, that was the last I saw of him.
Of course, the constant rejection wasn’t too wonderful for my self esteem and depression. My friends would say, “You don’t want a guy who only wants you for your looks anyway.” And, while I could agree somewhat with that statement, when everyone rejects you FOR your looks, it seems like an impossible dream to be desired because of them.
Though unlucky in love, in one lucky turn of events, I found myself in a new, more creative, more friendly position at a tech startup. I thought, “This may be my chance to get out of this depression and unhealthy eating pattern.”
Offices, of course, are probably the worst traps for someone with a food addiction, especially when your boss takes you out for gooey, golden quesadillas or orders pizza regularly, or gets gourmet cupcakes when someone has a birthday. I wasn’t done with my binging, not yet.
The last big binge for me was the worst. I purchased a box of grocery store bakery cookies and two cans of frosting. I didn’t even wait until I got home to start eating the chocolate frosting. It was in a spray can and I just started spraying it into my mouth on the way home from the store (gross, I know). That evening, I went through half of the box of cookies and frosting. The next day, the rest was consumed. Of course, I felt horrible, low, vile and disgusting. Simultaneously, there was this thought in the back of my mind, “You’re already fat, what’s a few more pounds, really?”
My 31st birthday was on the beach in April of 2011. I’d set up a picnic for my friends and made tomato mozzarella salad and brought sandwich fixings. I even had a cute springy beach dress to wear, and had put little ivory rosettes in my dyed red hair. Friends arrived, I got intoxicated on wine from a plastic cup, and life was good. Then, I saw the Facebook pictures.
It’s weird when you look at your own face and you don’t recognize yourself. My face looked stuffed with fat, my eyes small and piggish, my body, well, HUGE, compared to all of my svelte friends. I knew that I was overweight, I was at least a size 18, but these pics really got the message across. Wow, I needed to change my life, and I wasn’t really sure how to go about it.
I decided that I would just try making small changes in my life, so as not to set impossible expectations.The first goal was to go one week without binging, then two weeks, and so on. I’d like to say that the process was smooth, but I did have minor setbacks, where I ate way more than I should have eaten, but I managed to stay away from full-on, motherlode, planned-out binges. Each time I would start over, I would remind myself of Mirella Cuthburt’s words from Anne of Green Gables, “Tomorrow is fresh, with no mistakes in it.”
During my journey of making small changes, I met a great guy, who, amazingly (especially for Los Angeles), looked past my fat and flubber, and liked me just for me. The weight was slowly starting to come off, and, having love in my life gave me the support I needed to keep making my changes. I finally returned to occasional running in November of 2011. At first, running even ten minutes was a chore, but I kept at it.
In January of 2012, I decided to try a raw food “cleanse” to detox from the carbs and sugars that had such a deep hold on my psyche. For three weeks, I ate nothing but fruit, veggies and almonds, all raw, which, actually wasn’t so terrible, except for the last weekend, where I would have given my left arm for even a cooked carrot. I dropped about 10-15 lbs during that period, felt energized, and started incorporating more proteins into my diet.
I resumed the running in February of 2012 (I didn’t run in January because I didn’t want to wear myself out on so few calories). By the end of March, I could run six miles, and I wasn’t even thinking about stopping. This crazy thought popped into my head: “How about a half marathon?” My mind searched for excuses, but none could be found (where was that creative kid from the 80s and 90s?). I found a race online that was wayyy in the future (October 2012) and signed up. That way, if I broke a leg or something in the process, I would still have time, I figured.
“You’ll be way ready before then,” My boyfriend encouraged me.
Then, I got a flier in the mail for the local chapter of Team in Training, a marathon training program that benefits the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. They were registering participants for the Fall season, which included the Disneyland Half Marathon in September. Hmmm, I thought. Hmmm…coaches, teammates, new friends, good cause….hmmmmmmm.
“I think I might sign up for this Team in Training thing, ” I’d told my boyfriend.
He had a friend who was on the team already, and linked us up. Once convinced, I plunked down the registration fee and began the second leg of this whole journey.
Meanwhile, my eating habits had greatly improved. I had not had even the slightest binge in over six months, I was regularly active with hikes, runs and other outdoor activities, and people were starting to notice my weight loss. I had shrunk back down to a size 12/14 by the time our first day of practice rolled around.
My time with Team in Training flew by, and my confidence grew exponentially. I met overwhelmingly kind, encouraging and generous people who I am now thrilled to consider as friends. Even after my relationship ended with my boyfriend early in the season, and I lost my job, I stayed afloat and away from those old habits that I would have turned to over a year prior. No matter what happened, I still had team practices and my personal workout time to look forward to. It’s funny, I never imagined that physical exertion would be something to enjoy, ever, in my life, but I finally relish it. I get excited to hit the pavement!
Through TNT I have discovered that I’m faster, stronger and more athletic than I ever thought possible. I’m now a size 8/10 and still shrinking! When I crossed the finish line at the Disney Half, I was so grateful to have accomplished something that many people only dream of achieving. Through patience and hard work, I got there!
So, now, you might think, “Okay, half marathon. I get it. That’s great, but…Ironman? That’s nuts! Why would you even think of doing such a thing?”
All of my life I’ve always been the one sitting in the back seat and letting other people achieve accolades and accomplish things that I admired. I never had the confidence to be in the spotlight or to go for something big myself. I’ve always admired people who accomplished the coveted Ironman title, and, after attending many lectures and speaking to others who had actually accomplished this goal, I became convinced that I could actually do it. Seriously, I think I can.
Of course, Ironman isn’t just about the run. At 31 years of age, not knowing to ride a bike was my deepest, darkest secret. In late January of this year, I finally took a class to learn how, and after many thrills and spills later (I actually fell in front of a paramedic truck once), I’m becoming a lot more confident on it. Ironwoman confident? Well, we’ll see.
I also didn’t really know how to swim freestyle, another barrier in my goal to get to the title, but I joined a Masters class in preparation for TNT training, and my coach says I have great body position. My 100m time is over 2 minutes, but, hopefully, with time, I’ll improve on that, or invent a tactic to distract the other swimmers in the water, while I zoom on ahead.
So, what’s the goal? Vineman with TNT on July 27th, 2013. I plan to document my journey, the ups, downs, pitfalls and snags, the triumphs even. Here we go. This is going to be awesome.