Saturday, August 13, 2011

Running to Stand Still: A Tale in Two (or Three) Parts

If you know me very well at all, one of the things you know about me is that I have bursitis in my right hip. You know this because I love to sprinkle random conversations with sentences like, "I was going to make a big dinner but then my bursitis done flared up like a bottle rocket at a trailer park on pay day." And, "This damp weather sure is aggravating my bursitis. I think I'm going to just lie down on the Davenport and watch my stories for a spell." Or, "Gee, I wish we could come but I don't want anyone there catching my bursitis so I guess we'll have to stay home and be happy instead."

I actually have a prescription for physical therapy to treat the bursitis. A prescription that is sitting right here. I'd use it but I'm afraid it would work and then I wouldn't have any more afflictions with funny, folksy sounding names for another 10 or 15 years.

I have bursitis because about three years ago I took up running. I took up running because about 12 years ago I took up getting fat. Well, that's not quite true. What really happened was that a scheduling snafu found me being newly pregnant and quitting smoking at more or less the same moment in time. Enter Ben & Jerry's and voila: fat.

When I tell this story people are doubtful. "What do you mean by fat?", they'll demand eyeing me suspiciously, "What do you consider fat? 101 pounds instead of 100?"

They must think this is somehow complimentary or funny, but it isn't. For one thing, it makes me dream about a world in which I weighed only 100 pounds and could then eat 15% of my body weight in doughnuts and still fit into my clothes. At this point I'm so distracted that the conversation really suffers and they never get to hear that at a mere 5'2" I went from a size 4 to enormously pregnant to a size I like to call 'seize avec un chausse-pied' which loosely translates into 'sixteen with a shoehorn'.

And I hung out there through another pregnancy during which I got so large that people on the streets would gawk. In one embarrassing encounter, Hayden Panettiere tried to save me from getting trapped in a fishing net until I explained that I was fine and asked her to stop clawing at my pantyhose. You can't blame her:

By way of comparison, here is what I look like at the conclusion of a subsequent gestation:

So, all that to say that no, I do not mean 101 pounds when I say I was fat. I mean closer to 200 pounds. In the first photo you see what can happen if you gain 60 pounds during a pregnancy, don't lose any weight and then get pregnant again. In the second photo you see what can happen if you find out your cholesterol levels are dangerously high, decide to do something about it and lose almost 50 pounds before getting pregnant again.

I found out that my cholesterol levels were dangerously high during a series of testing that I've been doing at what feels like 10-minute intervals since I was diagnosed with a chronic disease that I'm going to call I'm Not Ready to Talk About That (INRTAT - don't bother googling). Suffice it to say that it can kill you, but probably won't, but might, so please get tested all the time just in case. But, no, you're fine. Carry on. NOT LIKE THAT! That's better. Easy. Easy. Eeeeeeasssssyyyyy. There! No problems. Now, come back in 3 minutes and we'll check you again and remember, you're fine. You're going to be fine. Stop worrying. Geez. We'll see you in 2-minutes for that cancer scan. Have a great day!

Now, it should say something about my personality that I knew about the INRTAT long before the high cholesterol and I knew that being significantly overweight was high on the list of things to avoid with this disease (along with cast iron skillets) but hearing that I had high cholesterol was what made me nervous. What it says about my personality is that I'm very susceptible to pharmaceutical advertising and TV medical dramas and, while INRTAT has long been ignored by drug companies and soap opera writers, high cholesterol is on TV. TV. And often in that magazine that comes with the Sunday paper. It is real.

I needed to diet but I didn't know how to diet. I had been an athletic kid who became an athletic teenager who went on to become a standard issue chain-smoking, disaffected college kid who was too sad to eat. After college I discovered food again but even at my heaviest, right before I got married, I was still merely a delightfully plump size 6 and hadn't spent one minute of one day of my life thinking about losing an ounce of weight. When it was time to diet I had no clue how to proceed.

I don't remember how I figured out to keep a food journal but seeing on paper how much I was eating fixed my whistle. I wasn't educated on the topic but intuitively understood that my weekly intake should not fill one whole legal pad. I slashed my caloric intake and the pounds just started falling off. It was that easy. Eat less. Weigh less. It took some will power, to be sure, but there was no magic combination of food upon which I relied. And I did not exercise. That came later.

Eventually, I lost about 45 pounds before getting pregnant again. I gained 30 pounds during that pregnancy and lost it all within 3 months. And I dragged the husband (who as per his request, will henceforth be referred to as "Thor", although I'm only going to honor this request on the blog - got that Thor?) along with me. We went from a family that looked like this:

To this:

We didn't just get up off of that couch. We got rid of that couch altogether. And we repainted that wall. Shabby Chic. Good times. Anyway, it was about this time that I stopped nursing (Yes, you read that correctly. Yes, the one in the photo.) and started gaining weight again. I realized that I was going to have to either curtail my dessert intake or ramp up my exercise routine. That's when I started running. Which was supposed to be the whole point of this post but will now be the whole point of my next post.

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