Hi. Good morning.
It’s Tuesday morning here in Seattle and it’s finally time to start talking about exercise. Movement. Sweating. Breathing hard. It’s all got to be written but I’ve avoided writing about it. So, here sits Fatty getting ready (with lots of words, so many words) to write about moving her body through space at a pace that might raise her heartbeat a bit and make her just that little bit more powerful, or content, or just sane.
I’ve avoided writing about exercise because for me it is a sticky, shitty, complex topic that really shouldn’t be. It’s not actually complicated. We feel better as humans when we move around. Period. No debate. We were not meant to sit at desks or on couches all day. And at age 44 I feel achy and stiff if I do that. Some kind of switch has flipped where the ache of too much movement feels better than the stiffness from sitting too long.
But it IS complicated.
My whole life I’ve cycled between exercise spurts and sedentary stretches. The exercise spurts have been coupled with attempts to lose weight and change my body. The sedentary stretches… well that is my default setting apparently.
One thing I know for sure (Oprah… listen up) is that exercise makes me hungry. There’s an initial “I’m not hungry at all” feeling immediately following exercise, but then it hits. Even though people always say to make sure you both diet AND exercise to lose weight, the truth is I lost way more weight when I sat on my ass and stuffed my face with bacon, eggs, cheese (no carbs!!) Exercise usually accompanies weight gain for me because I eat more and I probably build up muscle weight. I have evidence this is true for me. Moving around and sweating makes me hungry as hell. Sometimes I feel pride in that hunger – I deserve to feel hungry! I worked out! But then I get mad at the world when I eat more than I planned because: hunger.
I therefore have a hate/hate relationship with exercise dating way back. Actually, I can probably date the beginning of our crap relationship to when I was 10 years old and went to fat camp (calisthenics every day and feeling starved at every tiny meal). That was when the number on the scale was solidified as my God. Or maybe it was all those gymnastics classes at my elementary girls’ school. I felt so much shame around not being able to lift my chubby body up on the uneven bars. I looked different from everyone else in our stupid gym bloomers (navy blue underwear, really).
Exercise was always mixed in with attempts at weight loss, so I’ve never ever allowed myself to enjoy it. Or to revel in the real hunger (that makes food taste way better, by the way). It was always a punishment that never delivered the desired reward.
When I quit drinking I ate treats to stay sane. Then I had to deal with my history with food to become whole and grown up. I really love how my relationship with food has evolved over the last two years of sobriety. Relative to the old me, I spend a tiny fraction of my mental and emotional energy worrying about what I will eat or have eaten. It’s basically neutral, except for my ongoing anthropological investigation into what foods make me feel good or bad after I’ve eaten, and deciding when feeling rundown or overly full is a worthwhile trade off for the real-time eating pleasure (a tough life skill to nail down).
In early sobriety I discovered (re-discovered?) long walks as a way to manage my anxiety. My head was spinning and tight and I couldn’t just sit around the house and “distract myself”. I had to move. So I plugged my ears with podcasts and walked in my neighborhood for 1-2 hours most days. It helped.
Walking wasn’t ever really a punishment in my mind. I associate it with fun, actually. I used to walk for miles every day when I lived in NYC. I loved dropping in to cafes and shops and just continuing onward forever. I used to walk to work across the Brooklyn Bridge. That was heavenly. I could walk in high heels, boots or flip flops. In fact, I hated sneakers (still do). I much prefer to walk in sturdy 2.5 inch heeled boots. My husband thinks I am nuts.
Nowadays I live in a suburban neighborhood 15 minutes from downtown Seattle. There’s not much to see on my walks around here. Not that this is an excuse. I could drive downtown and walk there. I could find the beauty in mundane things, like people’s front door color choices or lawn design. Fences are pretty interesting too. Pergolas are everywhere these days, by the way.
But here’s the deal: I’ve made intellectual and emotional peace with my body, but my body hasn’t made peace with me. It keeps telling me I need to move. It whines when I get up from the couch. My ankles wobble and twist a little when I go down stairs. My shoulders seem to be permanently laptop-hunched. I think it’s time to routine-ize movement, but I’m scared.
I’m scared I’ll fail – it will be another bullshit “spurt”.
I’m scared I’ll hurt myself – trying too hard to do too much out of the gate.
I’m scared I’ll like changes in my body size and shape, and that will trigger dieting.
I’m scared other people will think I’m trying to lose weight.
I’m scared I’ll get so hungry that I’ll get obsessed with food (again).
I’m scared of being happy.
Wish me luck.