This summer, I lost weight. I lost a lot of weight. Simply put, I was too sad to eat. After a few weeks of consuming nothing but a serving of greek yogurt and a pastry from Starbucks each day, I had to buy new clothes so I didn’t look like a little kid playing dress up in my mom’s clothes. After almost a month of this sudden, severe drop in caloric intake, I found myself standing in the dressing room at the Gap, in disbelief at the fact that I was trying on (and fitting into) shorts that were a 00. Having been teased for years because of my “bubble butt” and my “Kelly belly”, the size of my new clothes was very strange — I used to look at stuff that small and scoff — I did not think my bones could mange to arrange themselves such that they could fit into something so tiny.
After a month or so of my new “eating” habits, family and friends noticed my weight loss and did their best to fill me with calories — sushi, wine, baked goods, bagels, they knew my weak spots. They did an amazing job of reminding me to eat, to take care of myself, and most importantly, to remember that I was loved.
By August, I was the skinniest I had ever been, 5’8″ (5’9″ with shoes on? maybe?) and hovering near 115 pounds. All the muscle I had worked so hard to build was being consumed for energy. I was depressed and broken-hearted, injured, poor, living in a new freaking borough (no offense Brooklyn. We’re cool now), about to start a new job (my first “grown-up” job!), and I was practically starving myself each day, yet all I could think of was that I was almost proud of the fact that I could fit into my 00 shorts. Because in a life where everything suddenly felt like it was out of my control, at least there was one thing I could control: what I ate.
By the end of the summer, my world started to right itself and with my re-established “normal” life, came my normal appetite. This was all well and good, except after months of a serious caloric deficit, my metabolism had slowed to a crawl — when you consume a muffin and a glass (or two) of wine a day, your body thinks you’re starving and does everything it can to keep you going, including slowing down your metabolism.
After about two months of eating normally and exercising a little bit (there was an ultra marathon and an off-season in there somewhere), I felt like someone puffed me up with air. I looked in the mirror and was not pleased with what I saw. It felt like my regular eating habits and slowed metabolism were conspiring against me — everything I ingested was stored as fat because as far as my body was concerned, it never knew when I’d starve it again (really, can you blame it?). A little extra weight on most people might be tolerable, but when you put it on a competitive runner who has struggled with body image issues, it’s downright catastrophic. I’m not sure when or how or why I connected my self-esteem with my weight, but there is a definite inverse relationship: the more I weigh, the worse I feel.
The fall brought larger pants and baggier sweaters, along with tearful talks with my boyfriend, and phone conversations with my sister. There were diatribes about unrealistic expectations society puts on women, restrictive eating habits when we were younger, and the fact that I swore my knees got fat (yes. really). Thankfully Sam is patient and supportive and knows how to filter out my hysterics to find the sadness underneath. And then there’s my sister — who happens to study this stuff for a living (true story) — who instructed me to work on focusing on how I feel, not on how I look. Who reminded me that I went through a pretty rough time this summer, and that the fall has been full of changes. That I’m being hard on myself, that no matter what, I’m marathoner, even if I feel like I have a butt that is large and in charge (my words, not hers). She told me that lifestyle transitions, shorter days, colder weather, and the calorie-laden holiday celebrations were all not helping. She reminded me to be kind to myself, that my body will work itself out, and I’ll start to feel better again.
Of course, she was right (note: older sisters always know best). After more miles, more painful planks and wobbly jumping lunges, more restful nights, more deep breaths, and more time spent with family, I am feeling better. My anxiety about my appearance has calmed down, and (coincidentally?) my pants are fitting a little better. If I’ve learned anything this season, it’s that when I toe the start line at my next marathon, the first thing on my mind shouldn’t be what size my New Balance shorts are, but how fast they’ll help me run the next 26.2 miles.