I finally cracked open my March Runner's World today, and was nearly stopped in my proverbial tracks when I came across Peter Sagal's "Road Scholar" column "A Thin Line." The tagline reads: "The memory of being fat never subsides- even after you become fit."
Most people who have known me fewer than five years don't believe me if I tell them I used to be fat. Okay, so I wasn't all that fat, but at 5'2" my over 140 pounds in college really pushed me well into the fat-zone. Now, people also don't believe that I weigh over 120, which I do, but that is another matter.
I struggled my entire childhood with being a fat kid, then a fat teenager, and a fat college student. With the shame that went along. With the constant desire to eat, which I still have. I have always been, and likely always will be, obsessed with eating. This fact is what made Sagal's article ring so true for me.
He recounts starving himself in high school when he began running, thinking of all the things he would like to eat but never would. While I didn't go this far, I would think about food, then eat it and feel ashamed, or not eat it and feel hungry (even if I'd had enough to eat already). And as he details in the article, runners often "run to eat," justifying indulgence based on miles logged. I do that, and worry about injury which would curtail my ability to eat with near immunity.
What is so interesting about running is how it changes your body. I went from 135 pounds when I picked up running at 21, quickly to 120 when I was running 3 to 4 miles a few times a week, down to 112 when I first approached 15 mile weeks (with 7 as my long run). I was so excited to finally be thin, and able to run distances. I was excited to be a size 0, when I used to be nearly an 8. I was also really bony, and probably malnourished.
Conversely, now that I routinely log 30 mile weeks, sometimes 40, I have so much muscle that I can't seem to dip under 120. I was happy to be back up to 115 and healthy for the past few years, then excited to get back to that benchmark when I started training for CIM after a few months of injury. But it never happened. Despite the long miles, speedwork, and clean eating (for the most part), I stay at 120.
Like Sagal, when I look in the mirror, I still see the fat person I used to be. I'll think someone is my size, and am later told that they are much larger than I am. But I relish being fit, and relatively thin, and will work to stay this way, as Sagal concludes his article so eloquently:
"But deep inside I know I'm also running because with every step, I'm leaving (fat former self) Plumpkin further behind. And I'm afraid if I ever stopped, he'd catch me, and consume me in his unending appetite, and I'd have to look back into the mirror from behind his frightened eyes."