Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Body Changes Through Running

       There are lots of pictures on the internet of people who have taken up exercise or running and had dramatic weight loss. They first show an obese person, often at a table or in front of a TV looking fat and miserable. Next they show their new self, a smiling, strong, much smaller in girth, fitter person. The pounds lost are anywhere from 20-30 to hundreds. I am blown away by these people. To change so much of your life, so many deeply ingrained habits, often without the support of the people around them, is amazing to me in so many ways.

      When I started running, I wasn’t particularly over weight. I was flabby and had a much higher percent of body fat than I appeared, but I wasn’t shopping in the plus size section yet. I controlled my weight with relatively healthy eating in small quantities, and once in a while I took a stab at exercise. When I started running, my mother said, “You will love it, weight will just fall off of you.” It didn’t. Matter of fact, the more I ran, the hungrier I was! A mile only burns around 100 calories whether you run it or walk it and when your runs are only 2 or so miles long, it doesn’t take much to consume what you burned.

       Over the last 5 years I have not seen a significant change in my weight. I did manage to lose the 10 or so pounds I had gained while living in Germany, but that just brought me back to my basic set point, the same weight that I have weighed for the majority of my adult life, which is about 30 pounds less than I weighed during the latter part of my teen years.

       For the most part, I have given up on the whole weight loss thing. I have tempered the unrealistic ideas that were formed while growing up in Southern California and my focus has shifted to being healthy and strong. Mind you, I do still watch my weight, get on the scale daily, and eat healthy, but I know I’m not likely to ever lost the 10-15 pounds that my upbringing tells me I should. I am at peace with my body in a lot of ways. Sure, there are a few places I’d still like to change and I would LOVE not to have to use anti-chaffing products on my inner thighs, but I know that the numbers on the scale do not mean much compared to how far I have come in general health, strength, and endurance.

       Then my picture from the Great Wall Marathon arrived in the mail. I dutifully put it in a frame and set it next to my half marathon photo from OBX 2 ½ years ago. When I looked at them side by side, I was shocked! For the first time in 5 years I could see the changes! In the past when my weight has dipped down, I could never see it. I looked the same to myself in the mirror even when the body I was looking at was 40lbs lighter than the image in my head, so for me to be able to see a change through that mental screen is startling.

November 2009 to May 2012 weight in both pictures: #134
     The change isn't dramatic, you have to look pretty close to see it, and I still don’t like my body all the time. Being raised by a father who always thought I was too fat is still part of my thinking and is something in my head that I have to work on. I will probably never be totaly satisfied with how I look, but I am increasingly satisfied with how I feel and my control over RA, THAT is what is truly important. Maybe with the increase is strength training I'm doing, I will have a third picture to add in a couple of years! What I hope I can impress upon people is that change in our bodies takes a lot of time and patients, but it is worth it.

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