Sept. 26, 2017
I thought it was my fault that I was fat.
I thought the saddle bags on my hips were a moral failing – like I didn’t have enough will power or self control to look like all the pretty girls. I wasn’t trying hard enough, I was lazy, I was greedy.
So I was filled, from my earliest moments of awareness, with shame.
That’s a pretty big burden to put on a kid… and it wears a track in your brain that gets set in there good and deep – a track that says “stand in the back for the group photo” and “don’t look in that mirror; it won’t make you feel any better” and “cute clothes are for the pretty girls.” It gets to being like the hum of a fluorescent light; you pretty quickly forget that it’s even there as it goes about its business of draining your vitality and joy.
Well, NO MORE.
I’m up to HERE with feeling ashamed, and I’ve come to see that I have been MISINFORMED about how to care for my body. I’m not weak, lazy, or greedy; I just wasn’t getting the help I needed to make a change.
And here’s what made the difference: After a lifetime of unsuccessful (and ultimately harmful) diets and quickly-abandoned self-guided attempts at exercise, I’ve discovered that I needed a better, smarter guide – and a guide who comes with teammates.
For me, I found this at Body Dynamics, a small medically-focused gym in Falls Church, Virginia, where no one wants to weigh me and everyone agrees that the number on the scale is just a number; it’s not necessarily an indication of health.
How big a team does it take to overcome a lifetime of shame? Big. I work with…
Barbara, my trainer. Uncanny smart and extremely kind and endlessly fascinated in how to persuade my muscles to work together. She also teaches balance class. Barbara is my guide, my leader, the wellspring of my progress.
Grace, my OTHER trainer. I see Grace because I hold my hips tilted downward and Grace is a pilates expert; she’s working together with Barbara to engage the muscles that take the awkwardness and discomfort out of exercising.
Gwynn, the massage therapist. She talks to Barbara and Grace about how we can manually lengthen and strengthen the muscles that are now waking up – and Gwynn educates me, teaching me in the quiet moments about the inner workings of the body.
Chip, the nutritionist. What a revelation Chip has been! All those “healthy” diet rules I’ve been following all my life? Turns out there are much better and tastier choices!
Chad, who teaches stretch class. (That’s far too passive a name for the class Chad leads, which is as much of a workout as any of the others!)
Patrick, the physical therapist. Getting a baseline evaluation from Patrick provided Barbara with the expert advice I was never going to be able to intuit by myself.
Jorge, the shoe guru. Jorge has another role at Body Dynamics, but he stood with Barbara for fifteen minutes critically watching the way I walk; then he told me the shoes I needed to get. It was like going through transactional analysis with the world’s best shrink.
Devin, the zoomba teacher, who grins at me from the front desk when I check in and who offers the chance to sweat pure joy in her class.
Jenn and Mario, the unseen hands on the wheel who run the place so it’s welcoming, approachable, and not at all intimidating, even for 57-year-old fat ladies who have tried and failed at other gyms before.
That’s a lot of people… but my health challenges deserve no less! I’ve been going there for a little more than a year. I’ve lost somewhere between 22 and 26 pounds without TOO much effort, and I can use an elliptical for 12 minutes and wish I had more time on it. My body works better; I can walk without discomfort and my muscles slide agreeably against each other.
I know I’m just at the beginning of my health journey. But at last I feel like I’m making progress. As for shame in my life? NO MORE.
See the girl near the back with her eyes closed? That’s me. Second grade. Say, 1966. Probably the very last photo ever taken when I wasn’t thinking “Please don’t take my picture.”