I wrote almost a month ago about the anatomy of a run. The post concluded: “I plan to go running again on Friday. Is there a feat of changing-your-nature that you’re working on?”
But I didn’t run that Friday… or that weekend. Or the next week. Or the week after that. It’s embarrassing to admit this, but I haven’t run even once since that 22-minute run in the cold.
The loss here isn’t the running itself. I recently realized that I love walking—especially what I deem “epic walks”—and that long walks combined with yoga will be good enough for me right now. I may even try to walk to work some mornings.
No, the loss is something else. The loss is breaking a promise to myself. Before I can build trust with others in my life, I need to build trust with myself. Will I do the things I say I’ll do? Perhaps I’m not giving myself realistic goals. Perhaps something like running regularly (especially in the winter, especially without a gym membership) wasn’t the right fit for me in the first place.
Breaking a promise with myself means that doubt creeps in as I make future promises. It’s particularly difficult when no one else is holding their breath for me, like with writing: Will I submit to that poetry contest? Will I really write that new play?
And sometimes, a different feeling creeps in—fear.
On Monday, I went to my doctor to talk about my weight and about exercise. While I am a normal weight for my height, over the past two years I’ve been gradually gaining a total of twenty pounds and three pant sizes. I was tired of Googling health advice, and of crowdsourcing from friends who offer attractive and contradictory opinions.
Also I thought that my new yoga+epic walks plan would get a straight-forward thumbs up from my doctor. I imagined her saying that the weight would naturally come off, or, if not, that it actually doesn’t need to come off at all.
She said I have to lose some of the weight. Not because I weigh too much, but because my steady increase is of concern. “You’ve gained six pounds since February,” she said. She didn’t give me an exact number to lose—though she felt that at my lowest I was probably too low—and she didn’t give me a time-frame. But while she approved of my exercise plan (“The best exercise is the kind you like doing”), she said that in order to lose weight, I have to also address my diet.
As I left the doctor’s office, I realized that I have never really tried to change how I eat. Sure, I’ve flirted with giving up sugar or eating more vegetables… but in general, I stick to my labels of “generally fine” and “have a sweet tooth”. But I know I eat too many beige foods, too much chocolate, too much processed food. I guess I’ve felt like if I toss a salad in here or there I’ll be okay. I walked to the subway already mourning the food I wouldn’t be eating.
Mostly, I’m afraid. I’m afraid I won’t be able to change how I eat in a meaningful, sustainable way. I’m afraid I won’t lose any weight. I’m afraid that I will lose the weight but that I’m doing this for my wedding and am just pretending that I’m doing it as a lifestyle change. I’m afraid I won’t go on epic walks. I’m afraid I’ll keep writing about my fitness plans and continue to break my promises in this public, vulnerable space. I’m afraid I’ll reach physical health at the expense of mental health—I’ve struggled before with anxiety and obsessive thinking.
I know with writing that when I get afraid, the good stuff starts to emerge. I’ve learned to write even when I’m terrified of what will come out because the thing that scares me is what I really want to explore.
So here we go.