All my life, I have felt very awkward running, shuffling heavily along like some toddler just learning how to walk.
In middle school, I could hit the softball, I could do a cartwheel. I even managed to get the highest score in archery, bowling and shooting (yep, I grew up in Texas, it was a sport). But I couldn't run those laps if my life depended on it.
So it is a surprise to me that I can drag my body out of the house three to four times a week and go for a run. Granted, it still isn't pretty. I saw my shadow a few times last winter, all bundled up in a parka and it looked exactly like Cartman from South Park running (Google it). And it isn't long - 1.5 miles is laughable to most runners. I don't even run the whole way some days, since those hills still make me huff and puff. But I marvel at the fact that I'm out doing it. Pretty amazing at my age (we won't dwell on that here).
I lost 20 pounds last year. I didn't do it on purpose. That sounds weird, I know. I had some issues pop up that literally sucked my appetite away. In fact, I have to be honest - the thought of food made me anxious and dizzy. I hardly ate anything for about four months. It was not a diet and I would never recommend anyone try it to lose weight. I stripped everything but the most basic food out of my daily routine - most meats, anything spicy, milk, soda, coffee, sweets. I don't even remember where it started - sometime around the time I broke my ankle and started worrying that I would pack on the pounds while I was chair-bound. I first noticed getting dizzy before a meal that summer. It got worse in a hurry.
I wasn't just scared of food - I was fearful of the whole world. Traffic, loud noises, the news...oh, my goodness, the news. Every day it got worse, so much that I didn't want to be in the same room as the TV when it was on. I got through Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners without anyone noticing that my plate was hardly touched. I'm pretty sure that I've never checked to see who cleaned their plate, either.
Of course, people did start to notice the weight loss. Lots of comments there. Even my doctor said it was a good thing (without once questioning if anything was wrong!). High irony to have people say "you look great" when I was feeling my absolute worst. They asked what kind of diet I was on and I didn't have an answer. Actually, I honestly answered a few people with "it is called the crazy diet - I'm a little crazy right now and can't eat". Everybody laughed - including me, but I knew something was off. I skipped the pills the doctors wanted to prescribe, but a few months of therapy helped me sort things out. Some sessions, I talked about the issues clogging up my head, all the while marveling at how thin my new thighs looked on the couch. It wasn't an overnight fix.
Once my ankle healed, I added a 1.5 mile walk to my daily routine. It was great taking a break and getting outside again. I studied mindfulness and added that into my walks. I used breathing techniques I learned in yoga to keep my body relaxed and nourished. Walking turned into running, even though I was fearful at first - afraid I would re-injure my ankle and once again be housebound. Afraid that I would suffer something tragic during my run and die on the sidewalk without anyone noticing for hours ("crazy" diet had turned into "crazy runs").
Running on, running on empty
Running on, running blind
Running on, running into the sun
But I'm running behind
I did enjoy watching the "yard wars" between our neighbors as they try to out-plant and out-water each other, and I liked counting the rabbits every evening on my runs - so many rabbits (the highest count was 17)!. I looked forward to smelling what the neighbors were cooking for dinner, and I knew what fences had barking dogs lurking behind them. Those walks gave me time to think. I replayed conversations in my head. I argued points long dead. I prayed. I sang 80s songs and show tunes. I memorized the sidewalk and the mailbox numbers. Slowly, I started eating again and my mind started to heal.
Where does the Dr.Pepper fit in? My favorite drink. I had given it up in favor of chamomile tea and copious amounts of carbonated water during this time. But one day, after a therapy session, I stopped at the Sonic and bought a Dr. Pepper. I drank half of it and it didn't hurt me. Something clicked that food wasn't going to hurt me anymore. I could eat and be safe again. I started going out with friends. I kept a journal and started a sketchbook (www.ColorsOfACowgirl.com). Restaurants stopped being scary. Dr. Pepper, queso, turkey tacos and goldfish crackers got added to my Target shopping list.
My mind is much happier these days, A year later, and I'm still running. Still doing yoga and mindfulness training, and I'm still praying :). But I've noticed that my "skinny" pants don't quite fit the way they used to. The same scale that marked my weight loss now shows a little bit bigger number these days. Wowee, and I had just gotten used to those thin thighs!
So, what do you do - run harder and faster and possibly strain that still-wobbly ankle? Cut out the Dr. Pepper? Start worrying too much about it all and risk going down that wormhole again? It doesn't help that Mother Nature decided that this year would be a good time to also throw me into menopause.
I'm going to keep running. But I'll run because I like it and because it makes me feel good. I'm not running away from anything anymore. I was hesitant to write this blog because I know some of my friends and loved ones greatly struggle with weight and may roll their eyes. The last thing I want to do is weigh my pain against theirs - no pun intended. My story is more about the journey than the scale. Some of the pounds may have come back, but I now have tools to keep away the dark clouds.
And I'll treat myself to a Dr. Pepper now and then, because I'll trade some flabby thighs for a healthy mind any day.