Monday, February 25, 2008

No Longer Just Fine

I battle with my weight.

I don't write about it much here, except when it comes into play with my Athena status. But I don't really write about it a lot.

But I think about it all the time.

I think about it when I dress in the morning and struggle with which pants will fit, I think about it when I do my ritual morning weigh-in at the office to keep an eye on the numbers, I think about it when I put my swim suit on, when I look at race photos, and athletic catalogs. I think about it when I put on my cycling shorts and when I look in the mirror after taking them off. When I pick what shirt to squeeze into and what tights to wear for the run. When I look in the mirror and see pictures of myself.

I think about it all the time. And it's not often positive.

I have always been a large woman. Big breasts, a double chin, and belly that belies my childless status. I have curvy hips and a round face. I always look like a chubby girl who carries and dresses it well.

And all of the social and psychological implications aside, its made racing and training harder for me. If you're a woman around 130 pounds, I want you to consider grabbing a 40 pound weight next time you go out for a run. Just pick it up, maybe put it in a backpack, and then do your long run or tackle some hills.

Being a large athlete is hard.

In the past, I've paid attention to my eating habits. I like whole foods and to cook, so I eat healthy meals. I have a strong, above-normal metabolism. I don't ever pig out on anything -- there's no binging. And yet I carry around more than I should.

And I'm tired of it.

I'm really tired of it.

This weekend, we got pictures from the family meet-up, where Mighty M's family met mine. It was a great time -- lots of laughter and easy conversation. And picture taking! Imagine two proud papas with their families in tow. Lots of photos.

And I was devastated again to hate the way I look in them. I saw the thick neck and double chins. The swollen looking visage and the layering outfit to conceal the ill fitting jeans.

I tired of these experiences. I'm so tired of worrying about fitting into my training gear, and how my weight is impacting my times. I'm sick and tired of it.

It impacts me more than I'd like to admit. Last week I turned down the possibility of sponsorship by a major brand name because it was possible that they would not have clothes that fit me. I had been sponsored by them before and the kits didn't fit. The bra was tiny, the running shorts were an impossibility, and the shimmel was a joke. The cycling top was horribly tight and, as a result, horribly scratchy. So I decided against sponsorship again this year. Because of my size.

And there are so many times when I sit on the stair landing in our living room, talking to Mighty M about it. How it feels when people at the gym assume I'm just starting to learn how to run because I'm heavy, talking down to me with condescending advice. How demoralizing it is to train hours upon hours each week for months and realize no benefit except being better able to carry the excess weight across the finish line. How I feel less attractive to him as a woman and as a future wife. How it leads me to frequently ask why he loves me or burst into tears when trying to dress for social events.

To date, I've been relatively silent about weight and training and (especially) the psychological wake of trying to accommodate one with the omnipresence of the other. I've been the well mannered Athena who makes it appear that she's perfectly happy with her status. But I'm not.

This year I've been working my ass off, more so than ever before. I'm more committed. I've dedicated many more resources towards my performance. And I really, really care.

Last night I logged onto the registrant list for a big race I'm doing later in the spring. The Athena field has started to fill up and, according to Athlinks, I have some very serious competition. I saw me not hitting my goals (of placing in the regional series) as a possibility. For the first time. And I know that there's something holding me back. My training is on track. I'm already realizing great improvements. I'm working very hard and changing things. But there's a limiter there.

My weight.

With all of this on my mind these past weeks, I started taking steps towards change. Tentative steps. I've never actually dieted before. I've always avoided that classification, label. It always seemed desperate to me, all rolled up in a ball of expectations and media and socialized image. My weight has fluctuated, but not because of started or finished "diets." I have had periods of skinny jeans, but they were fueled by a diet of vodka, depression, and couscous. I have healthy weight periods, too, that came during my 20s. And I've had long periods of inactivity and great weight gain. Throughout, I've never "dieted." And I don't plan to now.

But clearly...no matter how resentful it makes me feel...training alone will not make me a trim athlete. For many it will. Mighty M is starting a running plan this week to trim down for the wedding. He'll hit his goal in under two months and continue to eat crap along the way. It's just the cards he was dealt. Mine are not the same cards.

So, two weeks ago, I dragged myself nervously into the gym and got my metabolic rate checked and did a three-point calliper body composition test. And I talked to my coach about the process and the results. And I started to be more careful about calorie content each day and hitting the goals outlined by the results of these tests.

And I gained two pounds.

Thanks, body.

I know that I want to lose weight. I know I want that loss to be in terms of fat, not muscle. I know I want to continue to train properly and be fueled effectively. I know I want to remove weight as my limiter.

And now I'm beginning to realize that this will not come from just wishing it so. And resenting that I cannot just train and "be careful" about what I eat will not be the key. Something else needs to step in. I need to apply what I know already works for me, and retool it for this particular problem.

So. There you have it. I'm no longer just fine with being my weight, and I'm going to do something concerted about it. It simply has to happen. I refuse to relinquish hard-earned performance improvements to the fact that I am carrying around remnants of my old life. I have no room for its impact any more. I have no tolerance for it being a part of my life any more. It has to go.

Now.

38 comments:

Wes said...

Someone told me that some change must begin with a radical shift in thought processes, followed by a shift in behavior. The body will then follow. I lost forty pounds by eating sensible and working out six times a week, no diet. Now, I know that my body will shed 4-6 pounds when spring finally comes, then its go time.

Weight is a big deal, but you have to be ready mentally first. And I wouldn't worry about the 2-3 pound plus or minus shifts in weight. There are all kinds of physiological reasons for those kinds of things.

Get crackin! We will be your biggest supporter in this. There are Athenas out there you need to trod upon the way to the finish line (and a wedding to get ready for ;-)!!!

Wes

uncadan8 said...

Training and nutrition go hand in hand. Effective nutrition is essential for reaching desired performance goals. Just look at nutrition as the downtime aspect of your preparation for your races - as opposed to the running, swimming, and cycling. It is just as essential a tool as your training program. It sounds like you are taking the right steps and that you are ready to do what you have to do. And I know you can do it.

stronger said...

The things I have noticed with endurance training- I can't lose weight riding a bike for 4 hours but I start dropping inches when I weight train with some high intesity cardio.

Trihardist said...

Thanks for sharing such a personal topic. I think it's something not addressed enough in our community, at least not with the gravity with which you've approached it. I look forward to hearing about your progress. Hang in there!

Comm's said...

I agree with both Stronger and Wes.

You have to base all your actions on the behavior you want. To lose weight and your training, you need to look at your food, you need to look at something in your internal health. Just b/c you have always been a Athena doesn't mean you have to stay that way. make healthy eating choices, don't starve yourself.

21stCenturyMom said...

I am a life long dieter - I've done them all. To me, diet is a 4 letter word.

So here's what I'm doing and, as it turns out, Nytro is doing it times three. I offer this for your use as you like or you can toss it out.

Rachet way back on grains. Cut down on bread (even if it IS whole wheat) and rice and pasta and cereal. Start the day with a protein powder shake (water, fruit and I use frozen because I'm lazy, and protein powder - that's it). Eat your grain based carbs at lunch. Vegetables and fish or meat if you eat it at dinner (are you vegetarian? I forget. If so lots of stir fried vegetables + tofu MINUS the bed of rice). Carbo load for hard workouts (long rides, long bricks) but do it earlier in the day.

That is all - leave everything else the same. And I do hear that weight lifting will do way more for weight loss than any amount of aerobic exercise so I'm picking that up next.

Above all - DO NOT TRASH YOURSELF. Nothing good can come of that. Appreciate that you care and that you are taking steps and that your athletic training is, in a word, extraordinary.

monica said...

first off, i'm 130ish and used to carry that extra 40 pounds around, so i know how you feel. it does make a huge difference when you can drop some pounds, but TAKE IT SLOW and don't crash diet for your wedding or anything else. i could go on and on about what worked for me, but i won't here. email me if you'd like extra support. I HAVE BEEN THERE AND I KNOW YOU CAN CHANGE AS I DID!!!!

best part is, you have a man who loves you and wants to spend the rest of your lives together!!

triguyjt said...

don't rip on yourself. you are a hard training person who can do what alot of people can;t do. what alot of people are even afraid to attempt...

you are fixated on the scale. dont get on it each day. i'm sure you have been told this before.

set a goal to lose the weight in the slowest way possible.

you can achieve what your dreams envision. make the behavior mirror what the dreams dictate

LBTEPA said...

This post sounds ashamed and sad and as though your feeling about your weight are clouding your life((HUGS))
It sounds as though there are several things you want to work on that are all tangled up in how bad you are feeling. BTW feel free to slap me for being a presumptuous know-all at any time!
You seem to be associating your weight concerns now with your past. You've beaten your addiciton. Extra kgs are just that - not reproachful reminders of failure to achieve perfection.
You seem to be associating your weight with your worth as a person/wife/mother as well. You might need to talk to someone about that cos that will suck the joy out of your life. You'd be a great wife and mother if you weighed 310lb or 130lb (apart from any health implications of course)
This will sound terribly frivolous and shallow but the thing that has made me feel the happiest about my appearance in the last couple of years is learning to pose for photos. There's a chapter on it in the Trinny and Susannah book "what you wear can change your life". Now I hardly ever get that sinking "Oh sh#t I didn't realise I was so hideous" feeling when I see my captured image. Seriously.
Maybe you could think of it as a regime to improve your power to weight ratio instead of a diet?
Anyway enough faffing-on from me. Take care mate

kelly said...

You continue to be an inspiration to me. I am slim and lean, but I lack your drive and motivation. I read your blog and that helps get me on the trails. Good luck to you. Remember, you can accomplish anything you put your mind to. You are an amazing strong woman. I love your honesty.

Donald said...

Sorry, I thought I was on a blog called IM Able. Where'd that girl go?

You shouldn't be so hard on yourself. I've read workout reports that you've done that seem amazing. I would think that over the long term, your weight management will be a little easier with such consistent training. I also agree with the advice to throw in some higher intensity stuff here and there.

Good luck with everything.

TriGirl 40 said...

This post breaks my heart.

I've never met you, but I've seen your photos and read your blog. I see a strong, beautiful, honest, intelligent, motivated and inspiring woman.

But, I know, you can recognize that you posses those qualities and it can still have little to do with the battle you've described.

So many of us fight this demon.

And I have a feeling you'll help us all as you find your answer.

Laurie said...

I don't have any words of advice beyond what has already been said here. I just want you to know that I feel for you. You are a strong woman who can do this.

IronTRISH said...

I admire your honesty. Weight and self acceptance are constant battles for me. Thanks for sharing your struggle.

Mommymeepa said...

This post means a lot to me being an overweight athlete. I admire your honesty. You are an inspiration. If you are looking for a program to help Weight Watchers is great. It's the most real life program out there. It's working for me.

I will be praying for you. Take care.

TrainingtoTri said...

I could have written this myself, I feel the same exact way. If you are looking for a buddy to check in with on your "diet" please feel free to email me mnowac@gmail.com.

I am on a diet starting today as well and I will be doing pretty much what 21firstcenturymom talked about above.

I know how it feels to constantly think about your weight and let it cloud everything that you do and overshadow any accomplishment you reach.

Have you ever had any medical testing to make sure that your thyroid and endocrine systems are in check?

Go Mom Go said...

Amazing!
I just was trying to find all the words to write almost the same post. Then here I am on your site and finding you just wrote them all down.

I have been trying each day to eat cleaner, less of the processed and more of the whole foods. More water less coffee. And...no changes in my weight.

I am here for you.

Laura

Sarah said...

Oh man, do I ever know how you feel. I was terrified to go buy a wetsuit because I thought they'd tell me I was out of luck.

I just saw a nutritionist today and I'm now determined to get the last 30 lbs OFF.

I applaud your decision to take control. Rock on!!

Kathy said...

Hey there - this could have been written by me too. I have trained my ASS OFF for 12 months to do an Ironman which is now just 3 days away! I have lost a total of 2kgs in 12 months, and both of those were in the last 2 weeks. It sucks, as I thought I was going to get to Ironman and look like the athlete that I long to be!! Alas no. I will probably be the biggest female on the course, wearing my mens clothes instead of the cute little running bras the other girls wear.

But you know what I have learnt? There are hundreds of people who are going to be watching me, absolutely longing to do an Ironman but never will. They would be me in a minute if it meant that they could do what I am doing. But they don't because they are too lazy or have too many excuses as to why they can't - weight being one of them. I'll bet that at every race you do, you motivate someone to give it a go, simply because you AREN'T the skinny little athlete that is associated with triathlons!

So bugger the weight (easy to say, still bloody hard to comes to terms with). You are motivated, determined and above all, living a far better life than you used to. I know how frustrating it is (oh I soooo know), but there comes a time where it will mean less to you and the training and the personal goals achieved along the way mean more. At least that's what I'm trying to believe.

Hang in there - keep blogging - you are awesome!

MtngirlinCali said...

I hear you loud and clear. There is nothing more frustrating than being FIT and not having your body react to all the work you are putting into it. I think about my weight on a daily basis and obsess over going back to the size I used to be (30+ lbs larger), and seeing where I am now and how it's 10 lbs heavier than I was at the peak of my weight loss. It stinks, but being active DOES make you want to eat more, and even though we think we are being angels, it's shocking what the day can add up to...or shocking how little our bodies are burning compared to what we are seeing on our Garmins or on the exercise logs. For me to lose weight while training (and I put in way less hours per week than you), I have to log every single calorie. Well, I do Weight Watchers, so I assign a "point" value to everything I eat. Now, when I exercise, I give myself a point value as well, and I allow myself to eat 1/2 of those points. So if I get 22 a day and do a 1.5 hour workout, I may earn 10 points but I only let myself eat 5. If I plug this into a calorie counter, it quickly becomes apparent that I am exercising at a caloric deficit. I feel tired. My workouts aren't very good. And I am HUNGRY. Caloric deficit is the only way to get the weight off for me, and it sucks.

Anyway, I wanted you to know that you are not alone. And if you are dedicated to solving this mystery that is your body, I am confident that you of all people will be successful. But let's look at the positive here. You have one thing that most women 30 lbs lighter would die for.....Fiona's captors! So let's take a moment to rejoice over that, and then when you want to talk calories, you know where to find me! (I am still fighting the weight demons, but I know that I'll conquer it one of these days)

PS. You can pee away 2 lbs. You probably had too much salt in your system. Ignore it!

Anonymous said...

For some reason, I can't get this post out of my head. I keep coming back to re-read it. VERY thought-provoking to me...because I work with people that struggle like you explain here...and I am just trying to understand it all. THANKS for posting - it is excellent. Jen H.

Rebecca said...

I think every woman - fat or skinny - struggles with body image and insecurity about their weight everyday. Thank you so much for putting your thoughts out there for everyone to read. This entry really rang true for me.

I came across this blog a few days ago - it sounds so familiar to your entry, I thought I'd share with you:
http://www.freshyarn.com/42/essays/brittingham_fat1.htm

Kim said...

hi sweets, your honest thoughtful post definitely hits home with me. i wish you ALL the luck with EVERYTHING... thank you for sharing.

Marit Chrislock-Lauterbach said...

Thank you for sharing something so personal. I know that it can't be easy. You have my support, the support of your blogger friends. I think you are incredibly courageous - this is an issue that many athletes face. Athena or not.

AGA said...

Able, I can only applaud you for putting such a difficult issue so eloquently into words. Others have provided excellent words of wisdom that hopefully will help. You have my support.

Meggan Ann said...

There are many times when you write things that make me think we must be the same person trapped in different bodies. I'm dropping by to let you know I've actually been reading and not just ignoring you.

By the way, I can't wait till I don't dread the last 15 minutes of a long ride, but I'm getting there.

I'm 5 feet tall. I weigh 173 pounds. This is my heavy weight - I'm usually under 145, but since I got sick I've fluctuated between 150 and 160. Last season, I gained 15 pounds while training. I get the same condescending looks at the gym - and even when I was under 145 pounds, you can imagine the looks I got weighing that much at 5 feet tall. I also get rude, disbelieving stares when people find out I'm a triathlete. Some of my friends, who are very proud of me, will tell other accquaintances or friends, "she runs marathons and she does triathlons." Most of those people will take a look at my fat rolls, assess my size (somewhere between a 6 and a 12 depending on the clothes and the part of my training cycle), and give me a "yeah-right" look. But often, they'll flat-out ask, "You ARE?"

It didn't used to bug me. I'd think, 'sure, you can sneer at me, but do YOU have any triathlon trophies on YOUR desk? Nope. I bet you huff and puff just to jog a MILE.'

That thought doesn't get me through any more. Especially not that I'm at my heavier weight, and I can barely get into my 8s and 10s. I know when people see me, on those rare days that I do eat poorly, and assume I'm some lazy, junk-food eating slob. And it really bugs me.

And that's the key. It bugs ME. People can fill you with all the "oh but you're a beautiful person, you have such a great personality," and my favorite, fed to me by MY OWN DOCTOR, "well, you're active and you eat pretty healthy, so there's nothing you can do." What a dick. He has no idea that just to get down to 145 pounds I have to starve myself and calorie-count like a mofo. (And that's **still** 16 pounds above the highest range for my ideal weight.)

All that matters is you feeling comfortable in your own skin. And I know I can say, "you work out, you eat pretty good, don't worry about it," but I'd be feeding you the same line of bullshit everyone feeds me. All I can tell you is, thanks for writing this when and how you did.

Spokane Al said...

As you well know, there are definitely no easy answers to this issue.

I sincerely wish you the best in this battle.

I tried to capture some more thoughts in a post today. I hope I did not overstep or offend.

Take care strong lady.

Erin said...

You almost made me cry with this post. Because I've been there. Hell, I am there. I'm pretty svelte by most standards, but regardless, I always feel fat, I always dread having my picture taken. Because I'm not a size 2, or even a 4, and I never will be. So thank you, for sharing. It's brave of you, but also helpful to all of us who feel the same way, regardless of what the measurements are.

On a similar tangent, I have to say that I've never felt stronger than I have when I was doing the Ironman, but I've also never felt fatter. How this is possible, I have no freaking clue, but I constantly said throughout last year that I felt like I was trapped in someone else's body. So, the ultra-endurance stuff, it's not always good for the body image, FYI.

CoachLiz said...

Hey there,

I wish I could sit on the steps with you now. I am having a hard time of it as well, but I am one of those damn skinny girls. I know exactly how you feel when you said that you did not know why your boyfriend loved you. I have no idea why my husband sticks with me. I am not as pretty as the girl he married 15 years ago. I cut off my hair and I don't like to wear make up. I work out and he thinks about working out and sits down on the sofa. I don't feel atractive around him and it hurts. I love my job. I love to coach. But going home is a challenge because I don't feel like I fit in anymore.

Sending hugs your way because I know you need them and I would like them as well. Hang in there and find one thing each day that you can be thankful for. Today is my day to be thankful to hear the birds outside.

Megan said...

I have battled with my weight since I was 14 - between the eating disorders, the highs and lows, the daily agony of looking through the closet for one of the ten pairs of black stretchy pants because jeans are just too difficult - you wrote what I have lived for the last 15 years. I would like to think that with all this training, my weight shouldn't bother me, but it does - all the time, every day. And I am ashamed to admit that, after these really long bricks, sometimes I don't eat nearly enough because I think it might help me lose a pound or two. That's shameful to admit that after all of these hours put into the IM race, that I would mess around with this. But there it is.

I love that you wrote about this, and I wish had some great insight. But all I can really say is that I relate, with every word you wrote. Thank you for that.

Tea said...

Everyone has said such great things, but I really agree with Kathy.

You are strong, determined athlete, and you do things that some people can only dream of.

I'm glad you wrote this because it means alot to so many people. I just wish I could give you a hug. I could just feel your frustration in the post.

GP said...

There's nothing I can write that won't echo what everyone else has said. But please remember two things: 1) You're not an "athena" athlete, you're an athlete, period. And when you look at yourself in the mirror or in photos, the strong person it takes to be that athlete is what you should see; 2) ditch the daily scale check... you deserve a better way to start off the day than that. It can only lead to undue stress and unhappiness, which doesn't make for healthy anything.

Replace that ritual with something, anything that makes you smile.

sunshinequeen said...

Thank you for being real. I have not set forth to do an ironman, so I want to acknowledge your accomplishments thus far. However, I have run marathons, and when I tell people that I'm always so upset because I can see the wheels churning in their minds "you don't look like a marathon runner." But I am healthy, and strong.

I might still have 4 different sizes of clothes to choose from in my closet. But my weight has never been ideal.

Thank you for sharing, I hope that we can continue to aspire through your blog.

ShirleyPerly said...

IM, you never cease to amaze me with your honesty. I think it's great that you've made this commitment to yourself. You should apply for the next Evotri contest!!

Fe-lady said...

I just want to tell you how well-written and brave this post is. Thank you for "putting it out there"-something I choose not to do on my site-I am not brave.
Best of luck with your goals.

Only one word of advice- weight training.

Oh, and you can't tell how fast/strong someone it just by looking at them! :-)

Andrea Ford said...

Your blog makes me visualize a strong, healthy woman. I find this entry sad as it so eloquently puts into words thoughts that I have myself. Believe and you will achieve. It's a long, lonely road, but no doubt you've got a lot of fans cheering you on from the sidelines. Imagine how it will feel when you cross that finish line :)

BreeWee said...

This post almost made me cry, you are so beautiful (not that I see you in person- but your heart is shown in your writings) you deserve to feel beautiful on the outside...
I was 163 (have 4 very thin sisters) and I was the chubby sister for so many years. I was super happy though but I knew something needed to change. It took me 2 years but the weight fell of, you can do it, you can be the girl you want to be... BUT you have to be strong, really strong! I know a lot of people say "moderation" I was one of them when I was 163lbs, but that is so false, that is like saying we can smoke a little, or drugs in moderation...
Check out the ingredients in some of the sugar foods- a skittle for example, what the heck is that stuff? If is lacks any vitamins or minerals why even eat it? You can do it... you have a HUGE support crew (what 33 comments of people on your side?)
Live your life to the fullest... you deserve it! I never told anyone this, but the only reason I wore a swim suit only in Ironman (not bike shorts) was because I was so proud to have lost over 30 pounds that I DESERVED to wear only a swim suit, even running 26 mils down the road with no shorts over my butt... I want you to know that and feel that... and put on your clothes in the morning and say, "damn, I deserve to wear this!".

TxTriSkatemom said...

dang, what a week to be out of pocket. thank you for writing what I think of, nearly every day. thank you for putting into words what I felt when I was taking a planned walk break at mile 9 of my half-marathon last weekend (third half in three weeks) and some girl ran by and said, "Don't give up, you can do it!" like I haven't finished FIVE freakin' marathons, because I don't look like a runner. Thank you for letting me know that I'm not the only one who hates my race photos because all I see is the stomach poofing out under my bib, and those photos don't show what I felt like when I crossed the finish line.

Thank you for being so eloquent and for giving me someone to look toward for continued inspiration as I keep trying to make it all work, too.