A Note About Certain Words I Use and Fitness
I just did the P90X version of Plyometrics.
No matter who you are that’s a pretty intense workout.
Six months ago I tried to make it through the first fifteen minutes of Plyometrics and then I had to sit down forever and think about death and the universe and how it might be best if my legs were just eaten by lions and the rest of my body were struck by lightning.
Now I feel tired and warm and snuggly inside of myself.
So I want to talk really quickly about fitness but before I do that I want to address the way I use certain words, namely:
No one has said anything to me about how I use these words (mostly because no one really reads this, although I don’t mean to call the ten of you who do nobodies) but I feel I need to explain something. Especially if you’re reading this and you’re overweight and not happy with how you look and you feel like I’m talking to you specifically.
I don’t hate fat people. I don’t even hate fat. We all have some. We’re all supposed to have some by extension of the fact that we should probably all hate ourselves a little bit because otherwise we would become very boring and terrible to talk to.
(Also, if I’m making you want to have an eating disorder I would like to hug you forever and tell you that you are beautiful and special and awesome)
A lot of the way I use those words has to do with how small, alone, and afraid I felt while I was going (literally) insane. I can’t put a positive spin on that. I talked with a woman on a foggy day once that I’m pretty sure didn’t actually exist. And I also can’t remember during one particular night if I was doing sit-ups outside of my closet imagining a fat version of myself inside the closet or if I was actually inside of my closet hiding and crying imagining a fit version of myself doing sit-ups outside the closet. I remember both equally well. And one time I made myself forget something by hiding it from myself. That’s how insane I went.
(By the way, that is not one particular person’s fault, although it took me a long time to come to terms with that. It wasn’t one woman’s fault for not loving me just because I had never been happy before, even though that was the final shove. After all, what was she supposed to do? Just marry me to make me feel okay and give up her whole life? Because she said some stuff she didn’t mean and probably shouldn’t have said? Yeah, she shouldn’t have said it but that’s not fair. Were we supposed to walk down the aisle and say “Now we’re even” as we exchanged rings? All she did was make a little spark not knowing I was a powder keg. Like I said before, I was a game of Jenga that had gone on too long. It could have been anyone’s turn that made me fall apart. But I was ALWAYS going to fall apart EVENTUALLY.)
Before falling apart I was a regular fat person. Being pathetic and disgusting are a frame of mind, which is a frame of mind I was in because I was always entering these co-dependent situations where I would set myself up for an inevitable let-down that somehow felt like my fault (See above). I did regular fat person things like sit in a chair and talk to people on the internet. Yeah, I wrote a bit, and yeah ten thousand or so people would check in to see what I was doing with my life every month. Because I am better than you at talking about things, probably. But I HATED myself for being so regular and not successful and not happy. And I was kind of staring to hate the universe a bit for not letting my wrong way of doing things work just once.
Here’s something I know now that I didn’t know before, and this will cover the pathetic and disgusting portions of my vocabulary. Being just a regular person is only bad if you think life doesn’t have any value. It’s a good feeling to think “Only me and the people I like are the true people of the world, who redeem all the wickedness and make everything okay by existing and having our qualities” because it makes you feel special. We all have to do that a little bit just to get by sometimes. But everyone is special and no that isn’t a contradiction in terms. If you decide you’re just a regular person, but that you’re still important, then that makes EVERYONE important and can really empower you to give a shit about the world.
But here’s something else I know, and this will cover my vocabulary with the word fat.
There’s no way you can tell me that you feel fine if you’re severely overweight.
(Again if you have an eating disorder, I will hug and love you forever and you’re a beautiful angel but I need to talk to some other people right now who need to hear what I have to say)
Because you do not feel just fine.
Yes, yes, slow metabolism science of blah blah, you have tried to yadayadayada. I’ve heard it all. I used to say it all.
The bottom line is that unless a doctor is actively being fascinated by you: You’re fat because you eat too much and you don’t exercise enough.
You’re probably fat for any one of a number of very compelling psychological reasons. If it weren’t a good reason, you wouldn’t be fat. Everyone who does anything has a very good reason for doing so. That’s the way people work.
But if you are severely overweight you are also miserable at least physically.
Here is how I know: If you put one hundred extra pounds back on me while I sit here and write this to you, even if you distributed that weight evenly all over my entire body, do you know how I would feel?
Well, how do you think I’d feel?
You can’t take ANYBODY and put a bunch of extra weight on them and expect them to feel actually GOOD. That doesn’t even make sense! But here’s the real kicker: If you’re that fat, you might have just forgotten what feeling good actually feels like. Your brain is good at making up all kinds of shit. I didn’t even realize how terrible I felt until I didn’t feel that way anymore.
If that weight were all to be put back on me suddenly I would feel smothered. And yes, even though it’s not healthy and even though I would still have value as a person, I would feel fat, pathetic, and disgusting.
If you won’t change for yourself, maybe you could do it for the other people in your life?
Here’s something really sexist I began to understand about myself as I exercised: Why had I for so many years thought it was somehow fair that the woman I wanted to someday be with would (in my imagination because I’m still single) look nice and I would get to still look… like me? Why would she have to do all this stuff to make herself presentable while I just sat down in a chair and wrote about how sad I was in a hilarious and entertaining way? That’s pretty unfair.
Now I can’t go a day without plucking, tweezing, putting on lotion or cocoa butter or what have you, without getting that slimey “I haven’t brushed my teeth in too long” feeling except all over my body.
It is actually pretty easy to lose weight once you make it your lifestyle. The hard part is turning the weight loss activities into actual habits instead of something you’re going to do for five days to show yourself you “could if you wanted” and then stop.
There is nothing harder we do as people than saying to ourselves “Hey, let’s be a slightly different person.” And that’s what you’re really doing when you’re changing those core habits. Leaving your comfort zone is by definition uncomfortable, and who doesn’t sometimes like to eat an entire pie in the middle of the night?
Once you start exercising, it doesn’t get easier right away. It’s one of those J-Curved things, where it has to get worse before it gets better. Don’t say to yourself “How good do I want to look?” Say to yourself “How humiliated am I prepared to be?”
Let’s face it, exercising while fat is embarrassing.
I get it. I do. I so get how hard it is to make that commitment. It was fucking humiliating when I first started.
I passed out the first day I went into the gym.
I discovered that I couldn’t do one push-up.
Not fucking one.
I did ten minutes on the treadmill at a walk and thought “I’m good” even though I hadn’t really raised my heart rate. The weights were what got me. I hadn’t lifted anything heavier than the food I was eating in years. My arms were useless for a couple of days afterward. I blacked out about twenty-five minutes in.
When consciousness slowly began to return, the guy who works in the gym was standing over me with a sugar pill and a glass of water. Then he told me I needed to go eat an omelet. And that is when I understood I was so out of shape my version of exercise was eating only one piece of candy and then having an omelet.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I’d gone into the gym because I wanted to look presentable for someone I had feelings for. I still think that’s a good motivation, and if that’s what you need then I recommend it as a good way to start. I lost, I think, thirty pounds over the course of three months. I was feeling good. I looked better. I thought I was going to get to live a happy life. All the barriers were things I could overcome by myself, even though doubt was slowly beginning to creep in that while I was overcoming all these barriers she was not only not crossing any she was also kind of moving the finish line farther and farther away.
I feel really bad for her now. She must have felt pretty terrible knowing that she was the only thing that had ever made me happy and that she didn’t actually like me. I get why she didn’t want that responsibility. She could have handled it a lot better, certainly. But again, I get that people aren’t obligated to take special care of people they don’t actually care about and that is fine. I wouldn’t have wanted her under those conditions anyway. Life’s too short for people to go around saying “Just tell me what to do to keep you in my life, and as long as it doesn’t actually matter, I’ll do it!”
I lost most of my weight on an elliptical machine. If you’re severely overweight I’d recommend that to you as well. A treadmill is just going to fuck up your hips, knees and ankles. And get some spandex underwear. Your legs will rub together otherwise and that is the only thing that is going to give you enough support to prevent you from getting some really embarrassing injuries. And leave the jumping around and bending over classes to the skinny people for now. They wouldn’t dare dream of doing those classes if they were covered in weights and neither should you. You’ll hurt yourself.
Anyway, that was the slow healthy way I began my weight loss.
When the relationship that was never actually a relationship began to deteriorate and it just became too obvious to ignore that I was being told to Fuck Off, I still went to the gym… and this is something I do not recommend at all. I did things to myself I would not have done to an animal. I pushed myself way too hard and way too far. I didn’t exercise to feel better. I exercised to get her off of my mind and to hurt myself as much as I possibly could, which were goals I found to be mutually aligned. I think in March I lost a pound every single day. I’d only leave the gym at night if I wasn’t quite sure if I had enough stamina to walk home.
People started to ask me, politely, if I had cancer.
That was a very stupid thing to do. And after the first few months I hit a plateau so it wasn’t even a good long term strategy. You’re not supposed to not eat for three days and run five or six miles every night. You’re just not supposed to do that. But again, I was crazy. I couldn’t not do it. Sometimes I’d do girl push-ups, trying to build up enough chest muscle to do boy push-ups and just cry while looking at my reflection feeling so small and broken and terrible (fat, pathetic, and disgusting) that I’d been thrown away that sometimes I’d go home at night after I was done and seriously consider cutting my face or man-tits off with a utility knife. It just seemed so hopeless.
But eventually I did have enough muscle to do boy push ups.
And yeah, I’d still cry when I looked at myself in the mirror because I still had the profile of a nipple bearing animal that was going to suckle a dozen mammalian young (this mental image is kind of stolen from Louis CK) but I could do boy push-ups so at least that was something.
One good thing I did, was to keep going back. Heartbreak isn’t a good reason to begin exercise, by the way, but it was a good motivator to keep going to the gym. The only times I think I didn’t think of her doing those first four or five months were the times when I was in the gym pushing myself to my limit. No one can be heartbroken running at six miles an hour when they’ve maxed out the treadmill incline. It just falls off.
I’m not the fittest guy in the world, by any means. But I’m probably more fit than you unless you’ve been going to the gym actively for the last few years. I’ve got another big chunk of me to cut out and I’m going to be working on that pretty actively. Like I’ve said before, I want to get embarrassing and then I’m going to want some ink done.
I did a good three thousand words on Soul-Shaped Atoms today.
Oh, and my refrigerator is urinating again.
I don’t know what that means.