Fit for a Straightjacket

In June of 2010, I weighed two hundred and fifty-four pounds. I couldn’t do ten pushups, and a walk up a flight of stairs winded me. I got that big for a number of reasons. For starters, after leaving the New Jersey/New York area, I went from walking a minimum of two miles a day (usually super-fast, because I was often running late) to driving and sitting at a desk. Later, when I got really depressed, I began eating for comfort. When I was on anti-depressants, I ate too much because that’s what anti-depressants do. I literally embezzled money from grocery-shopping trips (i.e. getting cash back from my debit card at the registers) to buy donuts in secret. I was, and still am a little, totally ashamed. 

I seem to have swung in the opposite direction. I now weigh one hundred and ninety-one pounds, have 20 percent body fat (which I’m assured is pretty good, but the Internet tells me that it’s either average, borderline ideal, or really bad; that’s the Internet for you), and do fairly intense cardio four or five days a week. My wife and I have splurged on a personal trainer, and, about half the time, I bike to my appointments, which is about six-and-a-half miles one way, mostly uphill. For the most part, I eat better and less. And I’ve realized lately that I’m skipping lunches in secret. 

And that brings me to today. At my training session, I almost passed out. That’s not the bad part. The bad part is, I tried to pretend that it wasn’t happening. My trainer isn’t dumb, so he called it off before I could hurt myself. It didn’t have to go that way. During my morning ride, before which I had a banana to eat, I felt lightheaded a few times, but I didn’t stop. 

Why not? 

Because I look in the mirror everyday and see the fat guy from over two years ago. Apparently I’m the only one who sees it. However, my friends and family told me, even at my biggest, that I wasn’t fat, because they were trying to spare my feelings. How am I supposed to believe them when they tell me that today? 

On top of that, I have newly developed, low-grade asthma that winds me whenever I work out. I also have a lot of friends who are really, really, really fit, including marathon-runners, long-distance cyclists, and swimmers who make Aquaman say, “Take it down a notch, dude.” I don’t want to run a marathon. I’m perfectly fine running twenty to twenty-five kilometers over the course of a whole week. I just want to be healthy. And I am healthy. 

But that’s not what the guy in the mirror tells me. He uses as a weapon the fact that I had a (delicious) cheeseburger and a chocolate shake (also delicious) for lunch yesterday. He blames my difficulty breathing on my laziness. He says that the weight I’ve put on since I’ve started swimming a lot is me being irresponsible. That the fact that I have a naturally large frame is only an excuse. He’s a lot louder when I’m under a lot of stress, and there has been a great deal of that in my life. So whenever he talks to me like that, I respond by exercising. 

But today, when I got really dizzy and began seeing spots during a routine workout, I put myself in danger. I think have a problem. I can’t stop exercising, because it’s good for me. And yet, I need to know when it’s enough, that I don’t need to push myself quite so hard. 

But the guy in the mirror doesn’t believe that.