There Is Nothing Permanent Except Change.
I have always felt a separation between my mind and body. Most of my life I have focused on improving my mind, always expanding my horizons, and have ignored my body.
In my twenties I did a lot of stupid things. I smoked cigarettes for 10 years, averaging a pack per day. I developed generally unhealthy eating habits. Never exercised, never went to the doctor.
At age 31 my body’s natural youth, vigor, and metabolism quit. No two week notice, just a drama queen, Jet Blue slide-escape Quitsies. I began to expand other horizons, mostly those of the globe forming at my midsection.
I’ll digress: I have written in the past 18 months about my struggles with depression. Though not the focus of this story, I want to acknowledge that for much of my adult life, I have self-medicated against these struggles by using tobacco, alcohol, and food. For some years I’ve gone through a cycle of sadness, alcohol, and binge eating pizza or nachos. If I want, I can kill a pint of Ben & Jerry’s without flinching. I can’t say my mental health struggles are the cause of my physical deterioration but they are most certainly connected, and an honest reckoning with my Depression has paved the way for an honest reckoning with my body.
In November I turned 35 and I was with Lovah’s family that weekend for Thanksgiving. A photo was taken of us, which Lovah posted on social media. Within minutes I overreacted: the photo made me sad, angry, and I felt betrayed.
The truth is that I was at the heaviest I had ever been and the blunt photographic evidence of that fact hurt me, scared me, and made me feel ashamed.
Change Only Happens when the Pain of Changing is less than the Pain of Staying the Same.
Because I enjoy a challenge, I decided to start losing weight at the beginning of December, as we entered months when it was too cold or icy to run outside, and when everywhere I went someone offered me ham, booze, or sugar.
I started running two to three mornings a week and it was awful. I could not run for thirty minutes without pausing to walk. Going farther than 2 miles felt impossible.
I went in fits and starts, had good weeks and bad. By February when I went to the Doctor I had lost five pounds. This was great but also felt as though there was not enough progress for the effort I was putting in.
At the same time I was doing massive rewrites for a play about… Depression! Yay! This meant additional stress, additional alcohol, additional eating. I stopped jogging for much of February and March.
And I noticed that I missed it terribly. In just a few months I had grown so used to jogging that it made me sad when I did not run.
In early April, re-motivated, I started again. But I kept hitting walls. I felt like I just could not run beyond a certain distance, and had never once made it through an entire jog without stopping to walk.
The morning after LEMONADE came out, I added Beyonce and Kendrick to my jogging play list.
That day I ran 3.5 miles with no walking breaks. It was the furthest I had run, with my best time. #WinnerDontQuitOnHimself
One morning I caught a glimpse of myself in a reflective window as I ran by. I did not like what I saw.
But the moment my brain began to shame myself for how I looked, some fierce animal in my heart woke up and said “I love you John. I am proud of you.”
Anytime I feel like stopping now, I say that to myself.
As of June I am now able to run 4 miles, three days a week. Sometimes I break to walk for 30 seconds, sometimes I run the full time. I don’t judge. I just run.
I have lost 20 pounds since November and am the lightest I’ve been in 3 years. Ideally I still have another 10 – 15 pounds I would like to lose.
But for now: I’ma Keep Running.
There are two spiritual things I am seeking to embrace and celebrate: Patience, and the Journey. I have often put value towards getting something done, rather than allowing a process to slowly unfold, and have a habit of diving into something and rushing through. I wanted to write this experience now, because I am not done with the journey. I have no before and after photos because it is not done. And I also know there will be downs again. I wanted to write this now because I am in the middle of the process and, to me, that is a valuable aspect of the story to embrace, acknowledge, and celebrate.
Beyonce’s song FREEDOM (feat. Kendrick Lamarr) has been really powerful for me spiritually but also for my jogging. I do however want to note that I feel really uneasy with the fact that I – as a cis-straight-white-male – rely so heavily on that song to get me through my jogs. Is there a better case of cultural gentrification than a Black female artist dropping a social protest song, and a fat white man recruiting that song for a jog? No. There is not. I don’t want to kid you