Sunday, September 12, 2010

what i'm looking forward to, part 1

What I'm looking forward to now is so different from what I looked forward to when I started Weight Watchers a few years ago. And (surely this is related), the way I see my body as it is now -- with a lot of work ahead of me -- has a different timbre then it did then.

When I started Weight Watchers in spring of 2006, I was so ready to just not be fat anymore. I'd been overweight since early childhood (I started as a normal-chubby kid and never slimmed down; so maybe I should rephrase it: I never lost my baby weight after childhood).

The extra weight I carried always felt like it got in the way. I was aware of my body in a way I didn't like. I'd grab my belly roll in frustration. I'd look in the mirror and just wish it away. In fact, I did wished it away in childhood -- I was no older than nine on some Christmas Eve that I asked Santa to just make me skinny. I woke up the next morning disappointed.

In any case, my body was a problem that needed to be fixed, and Weight Watchers was the key.

And it worked. I'm a numbers girl, and a listmaker, so keeping track of my food using the Weight Watchers method resonated.

I looked forward to just getting the fat off and buying smaller clothes. And consequently I'd be happy forever.


I definitely got the weight off. I've gained a few pounds back, but at my lowest weigh -- 107 lbs. -- I was down 50 lbs. from my highest of 160 in high school, and down 40 lbs. from the 148-150 lbs. I was carrying when I started Weight Watchers.

I was definitely buying smaller clothes, and I had that "damn, I look good" feeling a lot more (to be honest, as much as my body frustrated me, I always managed to carry around a little bit of narcissistic self-admiration; and I always found that funny).

I wasn't endlessly happy, though. And that's no surprise. There is no single thing a person can do to be happy, nor should their be. Some of the most productive, fulfilling things in life come from the struggle, and I'm not always able to get through those struggles with a smile on my face.

So, what am I looking forward to now that's so different?

Well, let's wipe "eternal happiness" off the list, because that requires a list of its own, and a lifetime of effort.

I'm looking forward to a lean, athletic body. I didn't actually ever consider this could be in my future. I'd written off athleticism as belonging to other people, who were born to be athletic. Which is of course a mistake, because it may come easier to some people, and other people may be willing to endure the effort a bit more. But that doesn't scratch me off the list entirely.

And what I find so interesting about this change is how it's affected what I expect to get out of my trimmer body. Namely, that I'll still look like me, and not like a generic image of "a skinny person." (I have some predictions: no boobs, a straight-ish waist, thick thighs and calves.)

When I was focused on simply getting rid of fat, I wasn't really paying attention to the body underneath, and I think I allowed images of thin people to affect my expectations of my own body.

But if I'm thinking about being athletic? And when I'm in spin class or doing 40 minutes of ab strengthening? I'm acutely aware of my musculature. And honestly, to use those muscles actually makes me feel good about them ... even proud.

So rather than flipping through a magazine thinking "I wish I looked like that girl," I'm really excited to see how I will look when I'm in prime shape.

I'm looking forward to being aware of my body. Have you ever noticed how when really fit people do anything, you can see their muscles at work? Like, they can be taking a can of beans off a shelf and you see their biceps in action. It's crazy. I'm looking forward to being tuned in to that.

I'm looking forward to not being aware of my body. Isn't that funny? Because it's the opposite of what I just said above, get it? Basically I'll be happy when my excess fat isn't pressing into the band of my jeans, and when I no longer feel my arm jiggle as I reach for a can of beans on the shelf. I'm not as frustrated by these things as I used to be, but they're still unwelcome guests.

a final note
I decided to pursue this athletic goal just this summer. And in these last few weeks, I've noticed something interesting: Whereas I used to look at my work-in-progress body and see the burden of it (and consequently get low), I've caught myself noticing excess weight or a bulging tummy and thinking "Haha! I can't wait to work you out, you asshole!" It's like I've already conquered my body and my perception of it.

And if that ain't half the battle ...

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