I want to say a word about courage. This is something we, who live in our bodies every day, don’t think about much. People who are more fit than us do not consider it. Full-on couch potatoes (like we used to be) don’t think about it.
Sitting at home on your couch or in your favorite chair, eating ice cream and watching The Biggest Loser is easy. It is comfortable. It takes no thought; it is the path of least resistance and the groove we have worn in our lives.
Then you have this change.
Walk through the process with me for a minute:
First, you look at yourself in your favorite chair or on your couch and think, “That is not what I want to be.” It doesn’t matter (to me) why you made that choice. Maybe a high school reunion, a wedding, your 40th (or 60th) birthday, whatever. Something prompted you to realize you need to fix it.
Research has led you to Lose It!, the website or the app, and you have decided to try this crazy simple idea: cut calories to lose weight. Log everything you eat, and stay under your budget.
Now, instead of just eating whatever you feel like eating because it is time to eat or just because it sounds good, you have to think about your food. Now you don’t head for the fridge when you are bored, you open Lose It! and check your budget. You have 600 calories left for the day and dinner planned with your best friend tonight. OK, a hot cup of bouillon and a bottle of water will make you feel better and only cost 10 calories. Each day you get on the scale in the morning to check the verdict. Most days you see a few ounces go away. It is working, but you want more.
Time for the next risk. Exercise. Oh. My. God. You mean I have to go to a gym? My fat butt in front of all of those people? Huffing, sweating, lifting weights, treadmill and elliptical? No way. They will be lifting huge weights and I probably won’t be able to get ten pounds off the ground. What can I do?
After reading through the forums a bit, you’ve heard about the Couch to 5k program. One minute run, one minute walk to start with. “I can do that” you think. But you don’t think about what went into that call. You, a certified obese couch potato, just made the decision to get up off of that couch. To do something risky. You will almost certainly feel discomfort, and most likely it is going to go right up that scale into real pain. How many times have we heard “Obese people need to be careful with exercise” or “all of that weight, up to three times your body weight, crashes down on your foot with each running step” or “your heart can’t take it” or “your blood pressure is too high”? All of those warnings went through your head and you figured out a way to dismiss them. Just like someone parachuting for the first time, you know the risk and you decided to go for it anyway.
That takes courage.
Then comes the image issue. Do you have the right clothes? Do you have the right shoes? Do you have the right watch, iPod, phone, water bottle…
You bought what you wanted, or you shifted all of those things to the side, too. They really don’t matter. Did you go barefoot? Wear flip-flops or 10-year-old court shoes? Doesn’t matter.
Then comes the family and friends. They are used to you as you are! YOU are comfortable to them. They will *tell* you how much they love you and how concerned they are about your health. But if you actually *change* some of them WILL NOT LIKE IT. I promise. I have seen it myself, and seen it with others who have made this choice. You will lose 20 pounds of the 80 you want to lose and they will tell you how great you look and then tell you that you should stop now. You will get down 40 pounds and they will tell you that you are obsessed with tracking your calories and that losing weight is all you think about. You will lose 60 pounds and they will tell you that you look skinny (though medically you should lose 60 more, not just the 20 that is your goal). At 70 pounds they tell you that you are grumpy all the time and that you should eat some more to improve your mood.
Why? Your success scares them. They are where you were: on that couch and comfy with your ice cream and 3xl t-shirt.
But you aren’t there yet. That is still to come, because right now you pulled out a ratty t-shirt, some old shorts and those crappy white leather trainers from the back of your closet. You have your watch with a basic countdown timer, or you downloaded a Couch to 5k app or podcast, and you got out the door. Even now, at the end of your driveway, the doubts come. “What am I thinking? Look at me! Am I a runner? Hell, no! I’m a fat ass. I should get back inside before someone sees me!” But you press play, or start your timer and you start walking. Five minutes later it is time for the first run interval, and you give it a go. You aren’t flying down the road at a 6 minute per mile pace, you are shuffling along just a little faster than a walk, but you ARE NOT WALKING! You repeat the intervals, huffing, sweating, stitch in your side, but you keep going. You turn at the halfway point and head back home, walk, jog, walk, jog. You get home and bend over, hands on your knees and gasp for breath.
Hey! That is where the narrative ends. Stand up straight and take a deep breath! Listen to me. YOU RAN!! YOU ARE A RUNNER!! If no one else cheers for you, I am cheering for you. You ROCK! You got out the door and you DID SOMETHING REAL! If I was there I would be jumping up and down and pounding on your back, no kidding.
When I did my first run I came home, drank about 32 ounces of water and collapsed, but I didn’t think about the fear – I don’t know if I consciously registered the fear – but it was there. It was there again two days later when I went for a repeat performance (commonly called C25k 1.2) and three weeks later (C25k 4.2), but I stuck to it. Combining the running with the diet, and the weight was practically falling off. Sometimes more than a pound a day, but I averaged nearly four pounds a week for the first five months on the Lose It! program. I felt great, even after the first run, despite the pain. Not everyone feels that, I know. I wish I could be there to pat you on the back.
It isn’t the first time. If you stick to the C25k program you will get up to running 30 minutes without a walk break, and you will be getting close to three miles. You should sign up for a 5k at that point, go test yourself for real with a bunch of other folks there. I can practically guarantee you will not come in last. I made that promise to a friend with a bad knee who had to gimp along with a cane, and I was right. Get out there and go! You will come home with a t-shirt that tells the world you are a runner.
From here, it is your call. When I was an active duty Marine, we rarely ran more than three miles. More than 5 was pretty much unheard of. If a bunch of super-fit Marines are happy running three miles, you can run three miles for the rest of your life and be happy. Want to speed up? Do Couch to 5k again, but jog-run instead of walk-jog (or jog-faster jog, whatever) this time around. You’ll get faster. Want to go longer? Do the 8k or 10k interval workouts.
The first time I went out for seven miles, only .8 more than a 10k, which I had already run, I spent an hour at home dinking around as I got ready. I was procrastinating because my head was full of questions like “Are you f*ing crazy? Why the hell would you run seven miles? This is insane. Just go get back in bed, idiot.”
You are brave. You bucked the status quo. You broke your mold. You changed your body. You changed your mind. You are reborn. You have courage. You got off of the couch, you got out the door.
You are my hero.
The people who knew you when you were fat may not stick with you as you get down to a normal weight. Co-dependents can’t handle it when the person who depends on them suddenly stands up on their own two feet and holds their head up, but you will find you friends. The new ones may never know you were heavy, or they might be the people who were inspired when they saw what you did.
Courage. You have it in spades. Use it.
Now do something more. Take a risk, even a small one. As the song (and speech before it) says: Do something every day that scares you.