I have never had a good relationship with the idea of losing weight. Whenever I have lost weight in the past, it has normally been through a health problem, or accidentally, like when I moved to Melbourne and started cycling everywhere as it was quicker than public transport. The times when I have consciously decided, it’s time to lose a few kilos, I have basically never pulled it off.
The problem is I am way too adaptable. See for me, when I start losing weight, I think, cool, I have lost a kilo! That means I can eat more because I have that extra bit of give. I have quickly adapted to my heavier self, and anything else seems strange, like an uncomfortable skin which I must quickly refill.
I once saw a documentary which said that people have a comfortable weight – that is, a weight that they are psychologically comfortable with – and pity the poor people whose comfortable weight is actually unhealthy, because if they want to be healthy, they are going to spend their lives hungry. And I thought, bingo! That’s me!
So why fight my comfortable weight? Because I want to be able to walk easily and quickly; I want to be able to carry my buba around and about and expose us both to footed adventures; and I want to live as long as possible to see her future selves, and mine.
I have been attending clinical Pilates to strengthen my woebegone knees and surrounding muscles. Three weeks ago, I started walking in the mornings for an hour, like, fast. My physio doubles as a kind of personal trainer, and told me that what I need to do for my knees next is lose weight. She advised me to buy a watch that comes with a training computer, so you wear a heart monitor around your chest and watch your heart rate, trying to keep it at about 180 minus your age or a bit higher, but definitely not approaching 220 minus your age, which is pass out zone as opposed to fat burn zone.
The battle is only partly physical. See, even the word “fat” makes me uncomfortable. It says: judgment, ugly, not good enough. For years I have fought the machine of body image and beauty products. I have assiduously avoided learning how to do my hair, wear make-up or use high heels for the purposes of good. The idea of glamming up to pick up really needled me. It always just seemed so – lame. So – obvious. The years when I had long hair and was at a slim weight, men would look at me and I would realise afterwards that they had, with puzzlement and then, quickly, amusement. For years beforehand I had wondered how to catch the eye of the men I fancied. I would be witty, wear groovy clothes, be more interesting and complicated and fun and deep than you could imagine; I was a larger and deeper version of myself. But look, how transparently easy it was to attract attention in reality!
Although the physical is patently part of what attracts people to each other, I was determined to ignore it on philosophical grounds, a hypocrite in my own, slim legged jeans. I guess I was always afraid that, if someone first liked me because of what they saw, if that changed, I might lose them. I didn’t try to delve any deeper than that thought. I just avoided the physical, afraid first of all that it might not work, or if it did, it might not really work.
So now as I try to lose weight, I have this internal monologue to fight against. But losing weight can be separated from the dislike I have of all things to do with trying to do things with my body for superficial goals. I am the first to admit that perhaps I avoided what I term “superficiality” because I was never the typically pretty girl growing up (although now I look at those pictures and I think girlfriend, you did not know what you had!) So now it is a deeply ingrained part of my self-identity, to scorn such things as being pretty and to focus on being good instead, in the sense of the word good as interesting, thoughtful, and living a life of meaning.
Sometimes though, I would like to look “nice.” I would like to turn a head with a waft of perfume (I have always avoided that too, because it gives me a headache).
So as I try to lose weight, I watch my heart rate until it hits 145. Then I try and keep it there. I now feel restive if I don’t go for my walk, missing the endorphins, missing the feel of my muscles growing through use. I enjoy feeling stronger, going up a step and not worrying about a buckling knee. I curse and moan as I head up and down my hill, but then my quads start to work, and I can feel my calf muscles, and the knee pain disappears, and I don’t care that I look stupid in a semi squat walking up and down the same hill five times. I don’t care that I am fat. I just keep walking, feeling those muscles engage.
I have to lose 17 kg – an astronomical number, more than I have ever lost before, accidentally or on purpose. I want to do it.