Fat Oprah and Me

I’ve never been much of an athlete. I did some pathetic gymnastics in elementary school and junior high. I loved it but I wasn’t exactly one of the girls the instructors spent any extra time on. They didn’t see me as an investment. Therefore I didn’t see me as an investment but I sure loved wearing my team hoodie around.

For years I tried out for every sports team there was, volleyball, basketball, badminton. I never made the first cut and eventually demoralized I gave up on the possibility that I might have some latent physical abilities just waiting to be discovered. It’s sad that I gave up so completely on that side of myself, sad because it marked the beginning of the end of my belief that I could do or be anything, sad because it launched me into a lifelong pattern of neglecting and ignoring my physical fitness.

In college I was average-sized but I’ve never been fit. I remember being mortified when someone would suggest a weekend hike, knowing that although I had a normal body weight, I’d be huffing and puffing up the hill, slowing down the group and unable to keep up with everybody else. I saw fit people, really athletic people, as somehow intrinsically different from me, somehow better.

I’ve gained a lot of weight through the years and on Labor Day this year I saw a number on the scale that really scared me, one of those lines I swore I’d never cross, one of those weights that “other” people see on the scale, people I smile at and feel sorry for. We want to have more kids but my body in its current state would have quite a hard time with the stress of pregnancy. I have frequent back and joint pain and I’m always telling the kids I can’t hold them because I’m too tired or my back’s too sore. Magoo will even ask me in the morning, “Mommy. Kin you carry me or is your back too hurting?”

Sure I weigh more now, but honestly this is not much different than the way I’ve lived most of my life, not being able to do many of the things I want to do because I’m too weak, soft and uncoordinated. Now I’ve been working out sporadically with some wonderful friends for about year, doing big events and getting the little boosts of self confidence I needed to bring me to the point where I was on Labor Day when I finally snapped.

I dusted off a copy of Bob Green’s 12-Week Total Body Makeover that was sitting on my shelf full of health and fitness books I buy to change my life and then give up on when I realize that a book can’t change my life. Only I can do that. I read through it in the car on the way home from Montana and I formulated a plan. For 12 weeks I would treat myself like an athlete training for a major event. Dan was happy to support me and so I began.

I’ve always been afraid to use the weights at the gym, not knowing how to use them and too intimidated to ask anyone so the week after Labor Day I threw my last inch of pride to the wind and headed to the gym with a water bottle and my book, bearing a picture of Fat Oprah on the back cover. I shamelessly poured over the instructions from Bob Green and then read the fine print on the weight machine itself and then took a look back at the Fat Oprah book. I did this for 3 days and found I had the hang of it. I could leave Fat Oprah at home in peace while I went about my rehearsed routine.

Now I’m working out 6 days a week, 6 sessions of cardio, one yoga session and 3 days of weight training. For the first time in my life I’m in a steady workout groove and I can. not. believe. how fast my body is changing. I’m not dropping a ton of weight but I feel completely different. I am stronger. I have WAY more energy and patience and for the first time in my adult life I have hope that if I really want to, I can do anything I want to physically.

I’ve been putting off blogging about this because like most people no matter how far I come there will always be a little bit of Fat Oprah waiting to pop out. I get the feeling that no matter how thin, beautiful and successful she is, there’s always that Fat Oprah in the back of her mind telling her that that’s who she really is, that she’s gonna give up this farce of fitness and any day go back to her old ways. again.

And I do. I feel scared. Every morning when I get up at 5 or 6 to head to the gym for a grueling workout, there’s part of me that wants to give up or that reminds me I’m still that little girl who got laughed off the volleyball court. And I am still covered with a layer of fat that feels ever-so-slightly out of place at the gym, in my spinning class full of hard bodies, in my yoga class full of former instructors who can bend themselves into human pretzels.

But then there’s a bigger part of me that feels so proud and happy and strong and I just want to share with the world how great I feel. Yesterday when I picked up Magoo, I was shocked at how light he felt. I wondered if his picky eating had finally resulted in some toddler weight loss. Then I caught sight of my suddenly existent tricep in the mirror and thought, “Nope. He feels light because I’m an athlete and because I’ve shoved my own personal Fat Oprah in my sock drawer and I’m not letting her out any time soon.”

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