Youth is wasted on the young. It is easy to despair for all we've relinquished if we don't remember everything we've become and accomplished in the meantime. At eighteen I was sullen and self-execrating and unappreciative of the many gifts I had been blessed with. Then I met someone who, ironically through neglect, had never been subjected to any indoctrination in respect to the physical. No one had bothered to shame him or corrupt his self-image. He had the tremendous fortune of a healthy and beautiful body, rejoiced in its abilities, enjoyed the pleasure it gave, both to himself and to others, and neither wished for more nor accorded to his lovely flesh more attributes or significance than it actually possessed. Media messages urging self-loathing and obsessive comparison were something to which he was completely indifferent; he was amused by and gently reproachful of my own negative self-image and confounded by its stubborn resistance to logic. In short, he lived happily in his own skin.
I had allowed this wonderful truth to become obscured by the psychic garbage we gather in the course of adulthood, even though it is the most valuable lesson I've observed in regard to lasting peace with our corporeal aspect. But one day I woke up in the tail end of influenza and remembered just how much his unassuming example had meant to me, even in the midst of a giant fucking avalanche of overwhelming realisations. Maybe you've had the same transcendent sort of moment. Or maybe you're smart and don't need to be pounded into emotional atoms before reconstruction can be attempted.
But we are still there, waiting. I decided that was worth digging for.
Despite everything we're told, being thin won't attract universal acclaim and won't solve everything that's fucked about your life. But that's not what I'm selling you. Being a healthy weight will allow you to rediscover what matters to you and concentrate on effectuating whatever that may be. Are you happy with that as a goal? I am.
Ditching the whiny teenage subterfuge is essential, but I'm not judging anyone because it took me 41 fucking years. Accept that the old-skool band-aid dieting approach is pointless and deal with the fact that you'll be shifting your behaviour on a permanent and fundamental basis. Get counseling, get philosophical, seize your intellect and your angst and start thinking of them as tools to reshape your outlook. Press your vices into service. Vain? I'm massively vain and used it to prod myself out of fatness. OCD? Use that compulsive need to direct your choices. Controlling? Ditto. Control something that's begging for regulation. Too reclusive? Use your ninja skills to avoid the pitfalls of social munchies and nosey, judgy observers.
This will take a year or more, so get comfortable with that. Long term problems tend not to have short term solutions, another of life's annoying quirks. The central concept is simple. There is no magic formula, no VIP area, no queue jumping; it's the same for everyone. You can rescue yourself or you can run off for liposuction and bariatric fuckery like every other feckless arseclown. Here we go.
Which leads me to my next point...
Have Sex & Masturbate. It's scientifically mandated. The lighter you get, the easier it becomes and the more you'll possibly want it. Getting off improves self-image, endorphin response, energy, helps you sleep, reorientates your mood, your connection with your partner and your physical self. As you start to look and feel better, you think hot nasty thoughts and act on them like an adult instead of munching chips and commiserating with your lame self on the sofa watching Titanic for the 50th fucking time. Spanking your monkey is also awesome for the same reasons. Get back into it. Once a day, at least. What I did - I'll spare you the details.
Stop going out for meals and buying lunch for a while. Restaurants, cafés and bought lunches are crucibles of bad habits, refined crap, huge portions and multiple-choice temptation. You'll get judgement for attempting to moderate your intake while everyone else is stuffing their face so just give them a miss for six months while you're building a better routine; it's easier. If you have to attend for work, etc, eat something healthy before you leave and have entrées as a main, that sort of thing. Use the mind-boggling amounts of money you save to invest in better home-cook ingredients. If you can't cook, spend it on classes. Make your own lunch if you work somewhere else. What I did- Took my own advice. To this day I can't figure out how to keep a lid on shit when we go out. Luckily we can't afford to do it often; problem solved.
If you can't deal with taking on physical activity, I don't know if this will work for you so think that over carefully.
Lose some weight before you start crashing around in earnest, allowing yourself to avoid injury and to develop the desire to climb out of fat-derived inertia. That will come. You will start feeling restless in a nonsexy way. What I did - Once I'd lost about half of the bulk I'd earmarked for destruction, I started building up to 30-45 mins of hard walking every day, on the flat and now with hills thrown in. I chose that because it's free, doesn't require equipment, can be done at almost any time and it accommodates my antisociability, thus blasting all the traditional excuses out of the water. I don't run anywhere unless there's something visibly radioactive bearing down on me or they're giving away free Aaron Taylor-Johnsons on the other side of town, so there will be no jogging. Swimming's also great, especially for those dealing with weight-bearing injuries. Awesome things about the obesity epidemic; you can get great togs in larger sizes now and hey, it's not like you're going to be the only chunky monkey at the pool.
If you're going to walk, choose a 5 kilometre circuit (Google maps or similar can help you plot one nearby). Just walk around it at your normal sedentary pace at first for a couple of weeks. While you're doing this, learn good form (there's plenty on the internet about it) and start to apply it as you gradually increase the intensity of your walking. Remember to respond to tightness and pain by easing up and staying mindful, and find the shoes you need. Starting-out niggles are not the same as injuries nor reason to quit; walk them out and they'll go away. Do listen to serious, persisting or worsening discomfort, however; ignoring that shit will invite worse. I got blisters, small sciatic-type bitching and tired arches for the first two weeks, but that's gone now. In fact, so is my incipient sciatica. As far as footwear goes, I just wear chucks because I'm a barefoot/nonorthopedic type who spends most days unshod and superstitiously thinks sports shoes are coffins for feet, but go with whatever works for you.
Once you've got yourself sorted, start ramping up your speed into walking too quickly to talk comfortably and keep it up the whole way. That's not crazy power walking, if you know what I mean; I'm talking about striding along as fast as you can, maintaining good upright posture and avoiding over-extension. Think Born Slippy beats per minute. The. Whole. Way. It might not seem as hardcore as running, but you're doing it for a longer period and if there are climbs involved it soon becomes clear why it burns as many calories as jogging at the same speed. It strips fat and remodels your legs with gratifying rapidity. I will say that walking in form @ 10 kph and the focus required to maintain it can look pretty fucking psychotic, so if you're conscious of your dignity, do it early or late so no one sees your freaky marching except the other freaky marchers, lol.
When you're feeling like a plonker and just want to give up and go home, remember this: every step you take is putting another metre between you and all the bad shit waiting to get you when you were fat and lazy. You're walking away from diabetes, disability and cancer at ten kilometres an hour. Keep going. I tell myself that every day and it hasn't let me down.
If any of this sounds daunting, please don't be discouraged; I am the last person on earth who thought they would be getting restless and wanting to go for a hard walk. I am fucking lazy and always writing and sitting. The payoff for exercising regularly is real, even for sedentary inverts; you feel great, can do so much more and even your grey matter benefits. I mentally compose and revise while I'm trudging along and am amazed by the ideas and resolutions that volunteer themselves in the process. Give it a chance. Four consistent weeks is all it takes.
I plan to throw in some other form of exercise soon, maybe Pilates or some other eye-roll-inducing shit like that. How much activity is required? If you're not physically tired in a good way at the end of the day (and I don't mean aching and exhausted, because that's fucked up, obviously), you're probably not doing enough exercise.
The plateau is where loss begins to taper off as the most meaningful measure of your effectuation and gain starts to kick in. The gaining of control; of muscle, fitness, grace, shapeliness, wellbeing, ability. All those things are coming toward you and as the terrain levels out, you can see them clearly.
It is difficult to adequately describe the joy of discovering you're still there underneath everything that had obscured you. That all those little remembered things have survived. Where once I lamented the sight of my featureless legs, I now grin like an idiot at calves that are strong and tapered and written with increasing definition. My hands have rediscovered their tendons and veins, the latter meandering over their framework like inky deltas instead of lying buried and mysterious. I have clavicles. And breasts like no one's business, so emphasised by the retreat of my former bulk that my partner forgets what he's doing and gazes with a foolish SpongeBob smile. Perhaps the most surprising revelation was my face, its true shape returned one morning as I slapped on moisturiser and saw a long-lost oval looking back at me instead of round + party-crashing chins. This is the me I had almost given up for dead.
The plateau is the place where all that was lost is returned to you, and that is a beautiful thing.
Picture credits (from top to bottom) Mermaid Waterhouse, 1900. Monna Vanna. Rosetti, 1866. Isis & Osiris, tomb frieze detail. A temple relief at Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh. Towely, Southpark. Artemis. La Dame à la licorne (sight). circa 1500.
Next week- Part 3: Cake or Death- Paelo for skeptics, elimination, moderation & glorious, actual food.