Monday, October 31, 2016

Words carry weight... but so do I.

I've decided that I'm going to try to lose weight.

And I kind of already hate myself for SAYING that - my history of weight loss (or lack thereof) and my relationship with my body and my self-esteem while I'm undergoing that process has always been fraught. But the whole point of this blog post is not just to announce my intentions for accountability, but to also lay out a sort of manifesto for this weight-loss journey that I'm about to embark on.

It is very, very difficult to make that decision in a vacuum in our current society. And what I mean is that I can tell myself that all my reasons for wanting to lose weight this time have nothing to do with aesthetics or being "beautiful" or arriving at a more socially-desirable bodyweight (which is true), but it's always going to be there, lurking in the back of my mind. And moreover, it's always going to be lurking out there - in society, which as a whole only seems to approve of fat people if they are trying really hard not to be fat anymore.

In truth, this attempt at losing weight isn't at all about being "hot." I am not getting a jump start on a "bikini body." I have two very specific reasons for wanting to lose weight, and believe it or not, they have zero to do with appearance:

1) I want to drop a weight class for powerlifting competitions, and I don't want to do it through tricks or dehydration. I want to lose that weight for the long-term, not just for one event at a time. (For those of you who don't know, being in a lower weight class but lifting heavier makes you more competitive.)

2) This is the more important reason - I really effing miss running. I really do. I know some of you think I'm crazy, but I'm seeing so many friends training for marathons right now, and it fills me with such sad longing. I don't know if I will ever specifically run marathons again, but hell, I want to try. I want to put myself in the best position I can do that, and therefore, I need to drop some of this extra weight I've put on to lessen the impact on my knee.

When I try to remember the last time I was really happy with my body, it was two years ago when I was training for the California International Marathon - not because of how I looked, but because I was firing on all cylinders, and I felt efficient and powerful. I was doing what I loved, and I felt unstoppable. I was running consistently, sleeping well, hydrating a lot, and eating what I felt was the optimal diet for me, and I felt awesome. And... I was lighter than I am now.

But then after the marathon, I eased up on my intensity in all those areas, and also got sick (just the usual bad winter illness), which led to a huge drop in activity and a lax approach to food. A few months and about twenty pounds later, when I started trying to run again, my knee felt like hell, and it hasn't been the same since. And the rest, as you know, is history.

So here I am now. For the most part, I've been resisting the option of losing weight, because it's such a Pandora's Box for me. Like I said, there's no way you can make that decision in a vacuum and say that it's entirely uninfluenced by society's constant, constant battering ram of beauty standards. (Even I appreciated the WORLD of clothing options that were open to me twenty pounds ago that seem to be closed now.) I mean, I'm actually embarrassed and a little ashamed to even want to lose weight, because I feel like I'm admitting defeat and giving in to the pressure, even though this really isn't about trying to improve my looks. I know I'm doing this for my own reasons, and the fact that I have my own reasons makes my choice at least slightly feminist, but the truth is my choice is upholding the status quo, and I feel bad about that.

Am I reinforcing weight-based oppression by admitting that I want to lose weight? I mean, this wouldn't be the first (or last) time I've made a decision for myself that upholds the status quo (hello, I keep a makeup blog), but the fact that my own personal experiences with past weight-loss endeavors have been full of self-loathing and an obsessive need to conform to societal beauty standards seriously makes me question whether I'm capable of actually doing this without reopening those wounds. In essence, can I make this decision to lose weight in a vacuum, if I will it hard enough? If I keep telling myself and everyone else that I'm losing weight for different reasons, are those words going to be enough to fight back against our fat-shaming culture? Or is that which we call a rose by any other name still going to make us gag by coming on too strong?

Maybe I'm overcomplicating things. I have a tendency to do that.

But on the other hand, I also notice the "Hey, you look great!" comments that pop up in profusion when someone posts a picture after some weight loss has occurred, whether it was intentional or not ("I'm sorry you had the stomach flu, but it was a good way to lose 8 pounds, amirite?"). And I notice the profound lack of such comments when the pounds come back, as if only thinness deserves praise or even attention. (Like, if you're telling me I look great when I'm thinner, does that imply that I don't also look great when I'm fatter?)

And this is the sort of thing that makes me even the slightest bit hesitant about any concerted effort at weight loss on my part, because even though I know in my heart that I'm doing it in the name of athletic prowess and efficiency, it's not going to change the fact that the positive feedback I might get will be related to appearance. I don't want to be told "Hey, you look great!" if the reason for that compliment is weight loss. Weight loss is one of the possible outcomes of adjusting your diet and physical activity. If I'm going to be complimented, let it not be for my looks. Or if it has to be for my looks, then at least choose something that I'm directly responsible for, like my eyeshadow application or my sartorial choices.

So I've been at war with myself about this, ever since the ortho I saw a year ago suggested weight loss as one possible option for alleviating my knee issues. But honestly, it's an avenue that I need to explore. And I'm going to do it the "right" way - cleaning up my diet, increasing my workouts (especially by throwing in some non-impact cardio like swimming), and continuing to lift heavy. No magic pills, no body wraps, no weight-loss shakes or teas - I'm looking for the total opposite of a quick fix. My ultimate endgame is athletic badassery and to return to a sport that I love, and I can only achieve that by being the best I can be, not necessarily the smallest. I'm not happy that my decision upholds the societal status quo, but... maybe there's a way I can keep fighting the good fight. Maybe if I don't call it weight loss. I don't know. I don't know if there's any way I can frame it such that the words and my body can carry less weight without somehow adding to the collective weight on society's (especially women's) shoulders. But I'm going to try. If I can't do it with words, then I will do it through action.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

I made a blanket with jumbo yarn!

Oh hey, a knitting post!

I'm about to go into a detail-intensive discussion of the making of this blanket, as well as some tips if you're thinking about making one (or even buying one) yourself, so if you're interested in that, read on. If not, here's your tl;dr.

Pattern: Wonderful Big Stitch Throw

Materials: Red Heart Boutique Irresistible in Grey; 47" circular needles in size 50 (25mm)

Quick notes: I used 9 balls of yarn. Finished dimensions ended up at about 48" square. My gauge was about ~3.25 stitches x 4 rows (4" square) in stockinette stitch. It took me about two days of knitting really intensely.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

I'm willing to wait for it

So, last night I went in for my very first workout with Savage Strength Conditioning, which is about 35 minutes away from my house. I've been in contact with Jeron, the owner/coach, for the last year or so, since I knew I wanted to continue training after our move.

It was awesome, and different. I'm not going to do a whole compare/contrast thing between gyms, but I will comment on one thing: I joined Savage as a part of their competitive powerlifting crew, so not only was everyone there last night also a powerlifter, but they aren't merely casual lifters either. These guys and gals are into it, and they're exactly the sort of people I need to push me forward.

I love my old gym, and I miss them terribly, but one thing that was difficult is that powerlifters, particularly competitive ones, were few and far in between. And there were many times when it was literally just me powerlifting, and everyone else was doing the planned workout. (Gabe, my PL partner in crime, works out earlier in the day.) And it's fine, because I'm not the most social person anyway, but sometimes I just felt alone in my journey. I'm not saying that people weren't wonderfully supportive and kind, because they absolutely were and I love them to pieces for it; I'm saying that I often wished for a crew (or even a buddy!) who was doing the same thing I was - someone with whom to share the journey and the experiences.

So now I've got one. And I'm nervous as hell because I desperately don't want to let them down. (And I also don't want to let down everyone who's rooting for me at home either.)

I had a lot of fears going into last night, about disappointing Jeron and Team Savage, about disappointing everyone at Anchored, and especially about disappointing myself. I haven't worked out since July, and even before I left, I was showing up only sporadically anyway. I've spent the last two months in such a funk because my life has been in this suspended state for so long where I was ready for normalcy (craving it!) but I was not ready to definitely head in one direction or another. I wasn't ready to join Savage until now because we've been trying to get our life settled, and I think the lack of physical activity really took its toll on me mentally - I've been feeling depressed, restless, even physically ill. Nothing about my life right now resembles what it used to be, and again, I know I should count my blessings that I have been given the opportunity to take a breather, but like I've been saying, I am not a person who handles "rest" very well.

So anyway - my fears. In addition to my mental funk, I have been dealing my fears as well. I've spent the last few years watching two sports that I love (derby and running) eliminate themselves from my life as options, and then I experienced tremendous difficulty with my knee in the two weeks leading up to my competition in March. I would be lying if there wasn't a voice in my head that constantly asks, "What if you can't do this anymore either? What if this thing is over before it even starts? What if you never match your PRs ever again, let alone exceed them? What if you have already reached the end of the line?"

And I feel pressure now (self-applied pressure) to measure up. I've set this bar for myself, and I am desperate to hurl myself over it. I mean, I'm smart enough to know that I need to take my time getting back to my old level of fitness, but there is an undercurrent of urgency to live up to my numbers and to make people proud, to create a space for myself in this sport and prove that I belong there. In a way, it feels worse now to know what I'm capable of, as opposed to being a wide-eyed newbie who was just good at following instructions: now I'm invested; I have something at stake. And the expectations I've placed on myself are a double-edged sword.

But I need to trust the process, and I need to trust my body. Being betrayed by another person is a difficult thing, but what about when it's your own body that betrays you? How do you rebuild that trust?

I need to believe that my strength will return. But I need to learn patience. I need to learn how to wait for it. I've waited this long to move to Oregon; I've waited this long to finally join Savage and start working out again; I can wait for my body to catch up too.

It felt good to lift. I'm happy to be back. I can't wait to see what the future holds for me in this sport.