UPCOMING EVENTS: Hartford (RI) marathon, Newport (CT) marathon in October,
Soldier (GA) marathon, Pensacola (FL) marathon, and Pilgrim Pacer Marathons (KS) in November

It's never too late to be what you might have been. --George Eliot

This blog is about my journey as an asthmatic, hypothyroid, formerly plus-sized endurance athlete. It's occasionally interrupted with things that have nothing to do with that or whining about my weight and horrible eating habits. "You're never too old to be what you might have been" --George Eliot

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The thin I always wanted to be.

I always think deeply about thing on my long runs - I figure things out that have been bothering me. It's weird. It's like I have all this solitude and it affords me the quiet time that I need to mull over ideas that daily distractions would otherwise render impossible. It's especially true when I run along the bosque trail - out in nature, suddenly things seem clearer.


When I started this whole thing 3 years ago it was with one idea in mind: I wanted to be thin. More specifically, I wanted to be willowy. I wanted to be thin and gangly and long limbed and look super fit. The way athletes are "supposed" to look.

So I had this testing done recently and it says that I'm very, very fit, but only in a good week can I squeeze into a size 10. Most of the time, I'm a twelve. Not willowy. Not thin. But very fit.

There are only two times as an adult when I was "thin": The first was when I was 18. My high school sweetheart had committed suicide and I was an emotional wreck. At such times of despair and grief I lose my appetite, and I stopped eating. I was scheduled to have some surgery done, but at the pre-surgery meeting the doctor told my mother if I lost just one more pound before the surgery, he wasn't doing it. I weighed 118 pounds, about 50 pounds less than I weigh now.
Not healthy. Not fit. Not happy. But thin.

The other time was when I was around 35. I'd lost a lot of weight by limiting my eating and hiking a few miles each day. Then I stopped exercising, but also severely restricted my eating. I weighed 130 pounds, 35 pounds less than I weigh now. A picture of myself at that weight does not show a healthy woman. I was pretty happy about fitting into a size 8, though. But I was weak. I couldn't run; I could barely hike. I had no muscle tone.
I was happy. I was thin. But not fit.

It's almost like happiness takes up some palpable room in my body alongside the muscle, and the only way I can be that thin is to sacrifice fitness or happiness.

So, I was running along the bosque today and I suddenly heard a voice inside my head - I mean, I'm not psychotic or anything - but this thought popped into my head: Can I accept the hard work it takes to be healthy and fit, even if it means I will never look exactly the way I want to look?

Can I be satisfied to know that I'm fit and healthy, even if I look "ordinary" on the outside, I don't embody my idea of what an athlete should look like?

Can that be enough?

You know, whenever I run 15 or 20 or 25 miles I look into the mirror afterwards and always suprised to see a soft, 40-year old body. I'm stocky, with a little round belly that floats in the bathtub and full thighs that touch well along their length. No obvious musculature.
At those times I wonder, when will I start looking like an athlete?

Today I was thinking about that that again: I wished I looked like an athlete.

As I thought that I tripped over a root and looked down at the ground, catching myself, and that's when I caught sight of my shadow.

Oh. I get it now.

That's me down there.

And I'm an athlete.

So, I guess, I'm what an athlete looks like, at least this athlete.

And yes, that's enough.
...

32 comments:

  1. Oh, Misty! You spoke to me with this one....I have always had weight issues (mentally), and I often wish I could be extremely cut like I was when I was anorexic, then when I was bulemic...but I can't hate myself enough to do that. I can't be that obsessed with it. I suppose if there was a reason...like a job making a ton of money modeling, then it would be different...but to do it just to do it...too much work on top of the training and life. Thank you for sharing your thoughts...and your shadow. It is definitely athletic, and isn't it nice to know what a healthy ticker you have? What clear arteries and veins you have? What healthy blood, skin, and muscle you have?

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  2. Thank you for sharing. I too have struggled with wanted to look a certain way, be faster, be thinner...

    You are an inspiration. You an athlete.

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  3. hell yeah! as with our partners, spouses, loved ones - love you for the you you are now - not the you that you want to become.

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  4. If you live a healthy lifestyle, your body will find the size and shape it was destined to be. Whether or not it's the fashionable shape of your era is the luck of the draw.

    A sensible person will take function over form. :-)

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  5. Oh sistah, I totally relate! I was the too-skinny teenager (5' 11", 120 pounds!), but beer and good food packed on the pounds. I reached a high of 200, but then lost 40 pounds. Five pounds have come back, and they don't seem to want to leave! And yes, I too have the belly pooch and full thighs, but at 44 I'm the fittest I've ever been.

    Don't EVER think you're not an athlete!

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  6. Your post was very insightful.

    I lift regularly three times and week and often wonder when the muscles will start showing up. I faithfully do my ab work and have yet to see a six pack or even a single pack.

    And then I remember what the late, great Dr George Sheehan used to say. "Each of us is an experiment of one."

    That helps me.

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  7. Every time I don a swimsuit I think "those aren't the thighs of a runner" but when they are carrying me through the mile 9 euphoria and the mile 13 despair, I remember "but, they are thighs of this runner."

    You said it perfectly
    Yes, it is enough.

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  8. I know exacty how you feel. However, after completing an Ironman and the other races YOU ARE MOST DEFINIATELY AN ATHLETE!

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  9. Great expression of some thoughts I've also had recently. I know I'm not yet nearly as fit as I could be, but I know that will likely never lead me to the 135 I've always wanted to see. Oh well, as long as I'm a healthy role model for my kids that will be good enough for me.

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  10. I understand..I don't know if that feeling ever goes away, no matter what you weigh (ie; Is this what an athlete looks like?) We have to say a resounding "YES"!

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  11. You go, athletic girl!

    Well-written piece!

    I'm still going to get a shirt some day that says "THIS is what a triathlete looks like!"

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  12. I love your blog. You manage to express the thoughts that go through my head so often... I'm glad to read about your "war" against slovenliness, it's all about the little battles and by my count you're winning them!! Keep up your fight, it gives me hope that I too can win :)

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  13. Hell yea! YOU are an Ironman! You've got the most awesomest spendacular tatoo to go with it. but now you have me thinking about what you look like in the bathtub...um...sorry Sweet Baboo - but she brought it up! ohh...no pun intented...

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  14. Yes, Misty, you DO look like an athlete.

    Also, did you look around at Louisville??? There were a few Triathlete Magazine cover girls but not a lot. Most looked like you. and me. And we wobbled off into the sunset--back to our lives--and mirrors. And we were IRONMEN. We had succeeded in the most macho of sports. and somehow, in the end...I think it is still harder to be a "willowyWOMAN" than to be an "ironMAN."

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  15. This is so on the button, all I can say in response is:

    Hell. Effing. Yeah.

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  16. yeah...oh yeah...!

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  17. You have arrived! And judging by the numbers you posted the other day, you've been there for quite a while. It just took a bit for your brain to catch up.

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  18. I can't really add anything new that hasn't been said, but still--you are SO RIGHT ON with this post. I think those thoughts almost every single time I do a workout...and I sincerely hope that one day I get to "enough."

    Way to go!

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  19. This post really spoke to me, especially
    "It's almost like happiness takes up some palpable room in my body alongside the muscle, and the only way I can be that thin is to sacrifice fitness or happiness"
    I've been thinking and thinking about what you've written.
    Now you have seen what we see, how do you feel?
    Thanks GGtI!

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  20. I was at a team event yesterday with about 100 people in my race club. It was a year end party where people who did a lot of racing get recognized. The woman who had the most points which means she both raced the most and placed the most, is not classically thin. I looked at her up at the front getting all her winning swag and thought 'her thighs look just like mine' and it was very liberating and joyful.

    So yeah - HELL YEAH!

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  21. i agree 100% with you! In high school I was anorexi for a short time and I have battled my weight most my life too. UNTIL I got a clue and it is about eating good food to fuel our bodies to be able to do oue tri events and more! It is about being FIT NOT THIN. I see some ladies that sure they are thin and look all cute. BUT CAN THEY RUN LIKE WE DO OR SWIM OR BIKE. WE are the healthy fit ones!
    keep up the great work

    Beka

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  22. I love this post. But I still struggle with this every day.

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  23. I heard a speaker last night. His focus of the talk was about how difficult it is to let go. He could not tell us "what" we needed to let go of, but I think you found your it!

    This post really talked to me today.

    Thank you.

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  24. Thanks for sharing those thoughts. WTG you look amazizngly strong and fit :-)

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  25. Great introspection. I am going to forward your post to my 21 year old daughter. There's a lesson in it for her.

    Thanks for your words.

    Stay tuned...

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  26. Great post!

    Now when I go to the doctor, I don't care as much about the scales. I look forward to them checking my heartrate :)

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  27. So well said. Better strong than thin!

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  28. Recently one of my students asked what the Ironman finisher picture on my bulletin board was for. I told him all about it and before he left he said, "I'll never judge a book by its cover again"! I was a bit hurt for a minute but realized that I don't look like a cover model and I'm an unassuming athlete AND a great example of a strong, confident, slightly overweight female for my students. If I look superhuman then people will see me as such, and I won't be as effective in some of my other goals in life. Thanks for your post. Your teaching stories make me feel better about my own issues with my administration (like not getting paid on time...). You're amazing.

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  29. Love this post. I've been having this same conversation with myself for a few years now.

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  30. Wow...powerful. Thank you for sharing.

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  31. I relate to this a lot. Enough that I feel the need to comment on a post that's a few years old. I used to be thin. I was miserable and never ate. I couldn't make it up the steps in the subway without getting winded.

    When I started running, I was hoping to lose weight and get back to that thin place with the added bonus of being able to eat more. It didn't work, but I gained so much. I've run 2 half marathons. The first in 2:45 and the second in 2:30. Sometimes I feel bad about the slow times, but then I remember being the skinny girl who had to stop halfway out of the subway station to catch her breath. I finished my first tri in august and when I saw the photos of me online, I started to cry and wondered when I would "look" like an athlete. I was crossing a triathlon finish line in the picture. I am an athlete.

    Thank you for this.

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  32. This was an amazing post to read. I just came across your blog, and from the little I have read, I feel like I have a lot that I can learn here. We have quite a bit in common actually! I used to be 190 lbs, out of shape, and living a very unhealthy life. I also have terrible asthma. One day I just decided to change, and I did. I started exercising and doing a lot of running. I eventually took off all of undesired weight, and I have managed to keep it off, (but only because I exercise like mad - because I love to eat!) Running led to cycling, hiking, rock climbing, and now I am swimming too! Currently I am training for my first triathlon; a 1/2 Ironman!

    The reason I am responding to this particular post is I am having a similar problem, but with a twist. As I mentioned, I lost the weight. I do look the part. I don't look like one of those pro athlete women/animals, but I'm thin and reasonably toned. Of course there are things I hate about my body; the tummy skin my children ruined during their pregnancies, and my non-existent, sad saggy boobies, for instance, but is there a woman in the world who doesn't have at least a few complaints?? So here is my twist.. I feel self conscious because I look like I should be performing better than I actually do. I work SO hard, but with my limited lung capacity and asthma, I feel like I will never become the athlete I dream to be. So I LOOK like HER, but will I ever BE HER??

    Any wisdom would sure be welcome!

    PS. If you are interested, you can check out my blog at: http://cervelo-girl.blogspot.com/

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