Wednesday, April 21, 2010


It's the middle of June. A 200 pound woman in slightly too tight men's basketball shorts and a very, very sweaty tank top is running at what could almost be called speed, down what is definitely a very steep hill. There is only one source of a breeze for miles around and that is the air that is laboriously being shot from her lungs as she huffs and puffs like a big, fat wolf down the hill.

You and your teenage friends come roaring around a hill in an SUV and see the sight of this whale on legs and begin to laugh. One of you yells something obscene out the window. The group laughs its collective self silly for just a moment and then moves on to the topic of Jenny Sonnenfeld's out of season purse or Steve Morris's college age girlfriend.

The woman on the other hand stops running. Turns around. Goes home to her boring treadmill. Does not dig out her outdoor running shoes again for nearly a year.

Yes, the 200 pound woman is me, and yes, the kids in the SUV really did yell something obscene out the window at me. I like to think that in the years past, each of them has gone on to at the very least gain that infamous freshman 15. Hopefully one or two of them is really, really fat.

During the time it takes to do any diet/ exercise plan, it is absolutely inevitable that you yourself will encounter what I, at 200 pounds, huffing and puffing down Corkscrew Hill learned to call by a specific scientific term: Jerks. The husband (who is otherwise no doubt a prince of a fellow) who "encourages" you by pointing out what and how much you are eating. The neighbor who talks to you as if you had no idea that all you had to do all along was eat less and exercise more. The stupid kids hanging around the park like mold on cheap cheddar.

The solution to the problem of jerks is complicated. You can't make jerks go away. Even your prince of a husband sometimes acts like one. You can't hide from them. Eventually you are going to commit to some dang fool thing like running a marathon and you will have to get out and road run no matter how good you are doing on the tread mill. You can't reason with jerks because most of the time they are long gone by the time you have a chance to confront them (people are so much braver whizzing by in SUV's or approaching you at the neighborhood bar-b-cue than in places where you could actually turn around and tell them what jerks they are).

So here my recipe for dealing with Jerks:

1) accept that they are jerks. Either just right now (who knows if my SUV kids were just experiencing a lapse in judgement. Perhaps they're all church-going saints who volunteer to groom old people's poodles on weekends - to say the least of your otherwise princely husband) or always. It's not you. Sometimes people just act like jerks.

2) Remember that for every one (1) jerk there are a dozen (12) people who don't even notice you (after all 2/3 of the population is overweight or obese. You'd think we'd be used to seeing a few persons of larger persuasions around) and a lot of people are really rooting you on. Your friends and family, certainly, but a lot of strangers, too. Like me. And the nice people in the VW New Beatle who drove by every night as I ran down Corkscrew Hill and gave me a thumbs up. When it comes to losing weight, actually even the Jerks would like to see you succeed, even if their being jerks can be discouraging.

3) Confront them when you can. Accept it when you can't. Husbands, fathers, kids, friends who act like jerks don't mean to. They love you and are committed to you. Jerks or no they are rooting you on. And it's good practice to show people who treat you with disrespect that now that you are regrowing your self esteem they won't be allowed to treat you that way any more. It's called drawing reasonable boundaries. Making sure those around you don't cross the line into being disrespectful is a way for you to protect yourself. Otherwise your body will help you out by doing it for you - putting realy, tangible space between you and the jerks.
If you can't confront them, just accept that they are jerks. I like to think they are probably just momentary jerks who thoughtlessly lose their heads and don't realize the impact they're having. Like the SUV kids.

And when all else fails, picture them years from now, after a few years' neglect, too many college beer parties, no more varsity sports teams or cheer squads, running at 200 pounds down Corkscrew Hill. As you pass them at mile 24 running up it.

Maybe you'll be a professional trainer then too. And you can give them your card.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Buyers Remorse

"Isn't there a law in this state where you can exchange a car? Like if you buy it and change your mind?" I had my friend Andrew on the line minutes after having been fast talked into buying the brand new, souped up, custom Dodge Charger for which I had traded my famously clanky Volkswagen.

"No, not in this State. You can't take it back. Not after you've signed the papers."

I never found out why I had called Andrew specifically. Andrew is just a kid - OK young man - I know, fresh out of college. Maybe he just represents someone I think of as trustworthy, or maybe my dream self just thinks Andrew is just the kind of know it all I would require to know the answer to something like that.
I never found out because moments after my heart broken self hung up the phone with my all knowing friend I woke up, heart palpatating, drenched in sweat. I walked downstairs and opened the garage door. There was still a Volkswagen in it; as if on cue something shifted and Berthilda the 2001 Cabriolet went clank. My heart rate slowed to normal speed.
There would be no exorbitant payments I would have a monthly battle meeting. There would be no infamously high maintenance costs or endless detailing charges or whatever other costs upkeep on a brand new, souped up, custom Dodge Charger entails. I was off the hook.
The dream continued to disturb me though. What had the car symbolized? What was the dream trying to tell me about what I had just made a commitment to the higher cost greater maintenance effort of?
I sat forlorn in the kitchen in my new size S night shirt stewing. I googled "dream symbolism car." And they all came up with one thing: your body.
It turns out that in dreams the vehicle that carries you from place to place containing your mind and spirit represents your body.
Of course. And a body that's fit, in good shape, pretty, healthy etc. etc. requires A Lot of maintenance. It takes time and effort to take care of and yeah, it's sometimes a struggle.
And believe me there's nothing more heart breaking than having it repossessed. Nothing.
So here I sat, 2 AM at my kitchen table having signed the papers on a fancy new, souped up, custom vehicle-i.e.-body and realized all I wanted in the world was the comforting clank of something I wouldn't have to be so committed to. Something I could Not Think About. Something Low Maintenance and cheap.

Something I Could Neglect without anyone noticing.

The new size 8 thing, the souped up Dodge charger of bodies, this thing would make noise every time I gave it the wrong fuel. It would look disheveled if I forgot to oil it properly or let junk food wrappers build up in the passenger seat. My old body had never complained whatever I gave it and however I took care or failed to take care of it.
It had been fat but it had required NO Effort. At All.
And this having to do exercise and be picky about what I ate and take care of myself This Was Going To Be Too Hard.

I thought about calling my favorite know-it-all for advice. It had worked in the dream. But I realized he AND his lovely new wife would probably think all the exercise had finally deteriorated my brain.

And then I had the epiphany which I only recently put into words:

Everything worth doing is too hard. Everything worth doing requires me to bridge the gap between what I am capable of now and - get this - what I need to be capable of to accomplish my goal. That's what makes it worth doing. It stretches me. It improves me If it didn't it would be futile, boring, not worthwhile.

So I've been maintaining my souped up Charger so long I can say by now roughly 92% of the population has had theirs repossessed already.

The payment on it has been 5-6 days a week exercise.
The maintenance has been weekly weigh ins and time and energy spent making game plans when the scale went up a few ounces. It's involved passing on foods I thought I couldn't live without and only eating them on occasions when that's really true. It involved learning to like things I never thought I would, like seafood. Green beans. Cauliflower.
And spending time cooking for myself.
And going out for a run even when I didn't want to or when someone else made demands on my time or it was raining.
Sacrifice. Which I made. For myself. And no one else.
And that had always been the problem before.

I had not been worth the sacrifice. And now I was. I wanted my Charger. Fancy interior and high maintenance, souped up engine and all.

And for the first time in my life, wanting the shiny new vehicle outweighed my fear and dread about having to take care of it. After all, things had changed.

Taking care of my body was no longer drudgery.

Miraculously, wonderfully, it was a labor of love.

Whole Health Renovation Specialist

"I am forever striving to manifest things the way I would like them to be. In the mean time the greater challenge is to cope with the way things are." -Me

Friday, April 2, 2010

Beating Bob in One Easy- or Rather Agonizingly Difficult- Step

At the far end of the winding, hill ridden, cattle field lined country lane called Tonzi Road in Amador county, there is a collection of comingled brush, a good portion of which is poison oak. Its name is Bob. Nearly every day Bob taunted me. Ha Ha Bob would say as I ran up the hill toward him huffing and puffing like an elephant in labor.
You're walking. Again. Bob would laugh.
You'll never run further than a block, let alone all the way to the top of the hill.
Bob was located just past the top of something I tried very hard not to call "the hill of impending doom." Every day since I had decided to run a half marathon I had run the mile down the hill, and the mile almost back up. I would stop short of the crest of the hill. My formerly tar filled lungs burning, my legs feeling almost as solid as a pair of pipe cleaners. A bit recovered I would walk the walk of shame past the top of the hill of impending doom and hear the almost-sound of Bob the comingled poison oak bush laughing his non-butt off at me.
Five days a week. For a month. If I wasn't too deadly allergic to poison oak to get within 5 feet of it without turning into the stay-puffed marshmallow man I'd have set Bob on fire.
But every day I would get to the burning-lung-pipe-cleaner-leg phase and I would decide I could no longer take so much as one step and then I would do something that completely defied all possibility. What I did required superhuman strength. It was beyond comprehension. It was less likely than a duck billed platypus and more impossible than an anti-gravity suit.

I couldn't do it.
There was no way.
I was convinced.
And then I pushed all that out of my mind. Lifted my foot off the ground.
Just like that. I went one step further than I ever dreamed I could.
One step closer to the top of the hill of impending doom. And doom did not arrive.
And the next day I took yet another step closer. And the day after, too.
And within a mere 3 weeks I was doing the full 2 mile distance. At the bottom of the hill I added an extra mile. And at the top. And within another month I was running, not walking, back to the end of the road, and up to the top of then hill. Past the top of the hill to the scrubby, knob cone pine. Past that to the gnarled, rabbit ear shaped fence post. Past that to the "Trespassers Will Be Shot," sign (and they say we country folk are so sweet and hospitable). Past that to.... To Bob. And Bob was not laughing now.
Ha Ha. I would chortle every time I ran past Bob. Even and especially the day I ran all the way up the hill of impending doom, past Bob, up Mount-Not-Enough-Explatives and collapsed in a heap in front of my car. Between heaving, huffing and puffing I spared just enough breath for a MWAAAhahahahahahaaaaa! Take... Gasp.... That.... Huff.... Bob!
And that was the day I ran out of road. I had achieved my first goal of running 6 miles within a mere two months. Up and down hills. Past obstacles. Over dried creek beds and beyond the great, debilitating mental block known as Bob the comingled poison oak bush.
I ran that 6 mile stretch until I could do it in an hour. And then I decided I needed a real challenge and mapped out a rout with real hills and which would allow my runs to expand from six, to eight, to twelve, to... Eventually all the way to 26.
"I've hit an impasse. I can't get any further."
She was stuck at three miles. She would never get past three miles. The 13.1 she had committed to at the beginning of our sessions together was not getting any closer. It was getting further away. She would put her training plan and her anti-pronation running shoes and her three sizes too small run skirt all in a giant pile and set fire to it!
"Burn it all?" I suggested.
"Burn it all!" She tried and failed to resist laughing.
We had gone round and round on the subject of burn-it-all mentality.
I can't do exactly what I set out to do, exactly the way I want to, without any hitches in my perfectly lain plans so I'm am going to scrap it ALL and forget it and get a sack full of marshmallows and a six pack of beer and gain back whatever I've lost and never, never get up off my couch again until someone comes and lifts me off with a forklift. An industrial sized forklift.
"One step." I reminded her. "One step more than you did today. One bite of food less than you ate yesterday. Already you're way ahead of where you yesterday, miles ahead of where you started."
Her face did that thing people's faces do when, if they were cartoon characters a little balloon would appear over their foreheads like an x-ray showing all the little cog-wheels clinking and clanking into motion.
If you take one more step today than you did yesterday, and one more step tomorrow than you do today, then how long will it be before the steps add up to 13 miles?"

Clink. Clank.
"I can tell you because I know for a fact. From where you are now? About three months." I knew because I had already walked down that road. Or rather run up it huffing and puffing like a gimpy big bad wolf.

Clink. Clank.

"Meet me out on Tonzi Road." I looked at my watch. There was just enough time before sunset. "I want to introduce you to my friend Bob."
Whole Health Renovation Specialist

"I am forever striving to manifest things the way I would like them to be. In the mean time the greater challenge is to cope with the way things are." -Me