For the great majority of my life, I was a fat girl who didn’t see anything beautiful or positive about her body, her size, her shape, whose only purpose and goal in life was to lose every one of those excess pounds because they were the only thing holding her back from being happy, fulfilled, and loved by everyone around her. Each individual pound could be traced back to a very specific unhappiness, and as that pound vanished from her body, so too would that problem. An inch from her hips meant no more anxiety problems, and each incremental reduction in the circumference of her thighs meant boyfriend, boyfriend, girlfriend, one night stand, marriage and babies forever and ever. Losing weight was, in other words, the end all, the be all, my body and its raging, enraging imperfection was the thing on the top of my mind at all times, and I knew exactly what had to be done–I had been told over and over. To lose weight (to become happy) you had to eat less-and-better and to exercise (make an effort and suffer).
The idea of nutrition and aerobics became inextricably entwined with the idea of losing weight and getting thin. The only reason on earth anyone would eat well was to become thin; the only reason anyone in their right mind would strap on shoes and get out there in the world and sweat was to lose weight. If you were skinny, you sat around and ate cheeseburgers and the only exercise you ever got was breathing in and then breathing back out. That’s at least a couple of calories a day, and really all that can be expected of you. What is the point? There is no point in the world to any of it, except for fat people who didn’t want to be fat anymore and people who thought they were fat and it was a bad thing.
So I got weight loss surgery, and now I am skinny, and my doctor has told me I should be exercising–aerobic, anaerobic. The doctor told me I should be eating properly–lean meats, fresh vegetables, whole grains. And this entire time, the whole of the time since the moment I looked into the mirror and thought okay, I’m not fat any more. Would you look at that? I have been resisting the idea. Primarily because I am a lazy, lazy, intensely lazy human being whose fantasies of independent wealth may sometimes include hiring someone to do everything for her, up to and including putting her socks on and brushing her teeth. But also because the idea of exercise and losing weight is absolutely inextricable, in my head.
We were at Body Worlds yesterday, and here in Salt Lake it is called Body Worlds & The Story of the Heart. The story of the heart was told over a series of plaques on the wall. It talked mostly about the poetry of the human heart, its allegorical and spiritual significance. But then I came across a very flatly scientific sign–a picture of a running man, the text that said something along the lines of Your heart is a muscle. Like any other muscle, lack of use will cause it to wither. A shrivelled, raisin-like heart is going to kill you, asshole.
Oh. Right, then.
I can feel my heart in my chest, now, and it feels shrunken and leathery, weak and pathetic. It could cough and sputter and die at any moment, taking me along with it, because I am so myopic. I really thought, back when I decided to get weight loss surgery, that losing weight meant I would be out of this game, finally–that somehow with the weight loss I’d also lose all those weird and wrong associations and misapprehensions and stupid ideas. That I’d become smart, savvy, wise and sane about my body and health and fitness and self-image. It is the strangest thing, how they’ve somehow managed to follow me and keep clotheslining me in the most ridiculous ways. But maybe this is how the process works–I get clotheslined, I go, oh yeah! and another myth or wrong idea orstupidness collapses in a puff of cheese doodle dust and I am that one step closer to being all-around fit, healthy, happy, sane. That’s all I can really hope for, right? The alternative is too terrible.