The Not-a-Diet On-again Off-again Roller-Coaster

Body image is a real fucker.

I observe –rightly or wrongly, but it’s what I notice– that women get it so much worse than we men. Guys are not free and clear, but the gals got it so much more rough. Because even though I’m about to write some words here about eating right and getting in shape and all that, at the end of the day the only pressure I feel is due to some residual toxic masculinity nudge to keep up as a male runner in my generally fast age category.

If I don’t look good in a dress, no one cares.

I put it this way because I don’t want some rando-hater to come wandering by in a month or six and accuse me of propping of the diet industry or to become the target of Jameela Jamil mistakenly thinking I’m pro-beauty culture and getting virally trounced in a tweet-storm for something that I’m (genuinely) against.

So, for the record: body image is a real fucker.

And I state that in alignment with this other thing: that I’m declaring the next two and a half months of my life an eat-better-get-in-shape-again phase NOT because I’m selling beauty products, but rather because I know I’ll never even make it to another marathon start line if I don’t elevate myself even higher –health-wise, anyways– than I was two years ago when I did my last one.

My plan, the one that worked last time, went something like this:

  1. Set some rules, boundaries, personal expectations.
  2. Commit to something publicly.

Simple.

So, rules boundaries and personal expectations go something like this:

From January 3 through March 18, two and a half months I’m going to follow the little diet plan that proved my friend last time I lost some weight. The (modified) NO-S diet*. No sugar, no sweets, no seconds, no soda, no sauces and smaller portions, except sometimes on days that start with S, such as Saturdays, Sundays and special days. Also, (at lunch) skip anything that isn’t salad, soup, sandwich, or steamed.

*Google it. It’s not mine.

The committing to something publicly: well… this blog is a start.

In the meantime, I’ll try not to set any bars, high or low, for body image expectations for myself or others. In the end, for me at least, it’s not about looks — it’s about feels. And getting to that start line in better shape than I am now.

Better Eats

In an alternate parallel reality, I’m a full-boned foodie. Oh, wait…

It has not escaped my attentions, not even a little bit, that to cross the finish line of a fifty kilometer race I need to come to terms with my complex relationship with the things I shove into my mouth, both on and off the course.

At least six years ago now I had one of those cliche look-in-the-mirror moments. Everyone loves reading about those. I should write a book about that moment. I could legitimately put words onto paper on said subject. That moment spun my life off in a weird new direction, and left in its wake one of those affirmation-type stories people pay money to read for inspiration. Over four months I changed the way I ate, got thinner, fitter, stronger, ran my first marathon, and never really looked back.

Well. I peeked back now and then.

In the six years since, having dropped forty pounds in a summer, I’ve stuck mostly plus or minus ten pounds from that final number. Being lighter put less strain on my health and body, allowed me to run that marathon, and fundamentally changed the way I look at physical activity and the adventure that accompanies it.

All that said, I’m still not a thin guy. I’m definitely not one of those writhe, speedy ultramarathon guys you see in the youtube videos. Instead, I’m more like that guy you almost but not quite believe is a runner. I see the look in the eyes of people I meet: “You run? That’t awesome.” sounds like a compliment, but it isn’t a “you must be runner…” or “oh, sir, manifestation of the running gods, teach me your secrets!” It’s “you run?” Good for you. Keep trying. We’re glad that the sport isn’t so elite anymore.

Where I’m going with this is simple: I’m not the fat guy I could have been… but I’m also not the thin guy I need to be to do this thing. It’s a real barrier. It’s a serious consideration. And ultimately learning to feed myself (even) better for the next fifty weeks is going to be as important as every single klick I run.