I have always struggled with weight- related issues and coming from a pod of whales I get to call family, growing up I was a little whale myself. After graduating high school I decided to finally get into shape and give farewell to the double chin and b-cups, bury the fork if you will. With the support of my friends and family I was able to shed a lot of pounds, a true Ogre-becomes-Prince-Oprah-Show story by jogging. I did very well and surprisingly, actually enjoyed such thing as exercise. But like knitting and as all new things I try, I eventually quit. With my running shoes put away paranoia took over and eating became something very controlled. It took me getting canned from my stable job to lose that little bit of control I had over my nutrition and exercise became something erased from my vocabulary completely.
It was a boiling day in the month of August and the sky was blue, the air was warm, and people tried to stay cool by exposing their skins in shorts and skirts while kids ran free screaming, sunbathers bathed and swimmers swam in their plastic pools. Or at least for all I know it was the month of August. Since retiring from running, and consumed by unemployment, I was no longer a fan of summer or an outdoor person. The only fan part of my life on my summer days sat by my window blocking my view of such nonsense keeping me cool in my shelter as I binge watched new shows and movies that the internet could provide.
I had been unemployed for four months then and after hundreds of applications sent and countless resumes in God-knows-where, all I had to do was to sit and wait. And I waited a long time: I was eleven seasons in on what was the eleventh show I had watched that summer. I had gained about 30 pounds and just as the credits came up to an amazing series finale bringing another masterpiece to an end so did what seemed to be the last hot pocket I had. I was double heartbroken. But it was time to move on, “it’s not me, it’s you” kind of deal and it was time to pick the next best thing to watch, download
it just in time for me to walk four blocks downhill to the closest 7 Eleven for more snacks, climb that Everest back up again into my idea of Summer Heaven. Pretty much the only time I left the house; a day vampire hunting in order to survive.
It was then that it hit me like a baseball: there was nothing else to watch. I had literally watched everything that sparked any interest in me. I had been through every episode of The X-Files, watched both films, caught up on all episodes of The Big Bang Theory, cured all nostalgias from childhood cartoons, kicked ass with Xena, and even hoarded episodes of Hoarders among other crap made for that box with pictures we all love. I felt miserable. I was a junkie who used all their junk. And deep down I realized I was bored. What was I to do now?
I sat up on my bed and stared at the ceiling. I stared at the walls. I bit my lips and just looked around. I analyzed my room, the minty green walls I painted myself that made me feel at ease, the stick figure drawings my nephews made that don’t really look like anything but for some reason I cannot throw out, the Rolling Stone pictures on the walls, people I admired, people I found attractive. They were my heroes, those faces and bodies spread across those covers, amazing movie stars and celebrities, such inspira- whoa. Those people and the stick figure drawings all had one thing in common: they were all thin. And the celebrities, well, they were pretty hot. It was then I looked down and saw it, sitting on my thighs like a purring cat: my gut. Dear God. I was an animal in aestivation and all of a sudden I was a beast swallowed by shame and guilt. My heart sank and it felt like my life was the Truman Show and somehow my parents had caught me without a towel on. I felt like I had completely abandoned something I had worked so hard to achieve in the first place. I knew exactly how I was going to spend my time for the last weeks of summer: I was going to jog and get in shape just like those Rolling Stone pictures. Abs of steel here I come.
I was motivated, I was ready, I was Rocky Balboa and Eye of the Tiger was number one on the jogging playlist I had made for myself (naturally followed by Queen, What Is Love, and If I could Turn Back Time. Hey, every exercise needs a little Cher). I had my running shoes on that I dug out deeper in the closet than John Travolta himself. I was truly unstoppable. But I knew I had to start small, I wasn’t stupid, I remembered a thing or two about exercising. “You got this” said my brain. And as I laid out my jogging blueprint out it had not occurred to me then what I was getting myself into and that running a five mile marathon your first time exercising in years was , maybe, just a bit of a terrible idea.
I counted the eleven blocks that would take for me to run from my house to the post office on the Government center. “Hmm… about a mile… not bad.” I told myself. “A mile to get there and a mile back… two miles.” Okay. Perfect plan: I was gonna do
five laps. “5×2 10… 10” I calculated. Ten miles on my first time exercising in years. I… I was unstoppable.
Like I said, I remembered a thing or two about exercising. I remembered that thing where you should stretch after exercising and that doing before wasn’t really important. So I started. Jumped right in. “Slowly does it” said my brain. And as I began jogging, one foot in front of the other, keeping my balance, I realized how much time I had wasted watching television. I loved jogging. What was I doing with my life? I went a little faster and by the sixth block towards the post office I was running. And by the time I made it to the post office I was an athlete. By the third lap I felt I had won a gold Olympic medal. And by the end of the fifth lap I was The Flash.
I had done so well. My breathing was right and one bottle of water after every lap I was much hydrated. And I could feel the burn. My legs were on fire, my muscles were alive and sooner than later I knew I’d have the legs of a horse. “You know what? I think I can go for two more laps.” And so I did. I ran block after block and my muscles hurt more and more. I was sure losing 30 pounds in one run. By the end of the seventh lap I had really overcome all expectations for myself and I deserved a golden star. When I came around the block to my house it was time for this racing stallion to relax. I ran straight into my house, shot upstairs where I stopped abruptly and threw myself on the floor. “Maybe I’ll end this day with some five minute YouTube yoga to help me stretch.” And I did. I stretched: arms up, breathing in; legs out, breathing out. My leg muscles were on fire. It was time to hit the showers and sleep. And so I did…
I woke up and I couldn’t move. I was paralyzed. I managed to sit up and felt sharp pains on my ankles and knees as I did so. I grabbed my thighs and moved them towards the edge of the bed so I could get up. I pulled myself up by holding onto the night stand and as I did invisible knives seemed to stab my legs in all directions. I dropped onto the floor and shrieked in pain. Tears I could not control rolled down my cheeks and I laid there on the floor in the fetal position whimpering, holding onto my knees trying to somehow relieve the pain. I managed to crawl army style out of my room across my apartment to where my cell phone was charging and called my mother. “Mommy. Help.” – a deep grunt that sounded more like Jodie Foster than my own voice came out of my mouth. When worse comes to worst even Greek warriors call out to their mother. She yelled at me, naturally but came running to save her dying child (naturally). At the rate I was going, I wasn’t going to make it ‘til Christmas. Once there, she assisted me back into my bed and strictly ordered me to stay there and ice my knees while she made me something to eat. Maybe re-watching the X-Files wouldn’t hurt now.
It was then she walked into the room with the official final hot pocket left in my fridge. Stars filled my eyes and as I bit down I could taste the melted cheese and hot pepperoni. Pizza flavor, my favorite! I ate it with a smile because it was the best hot
pocket I’ve had in my life. It was finger- licking good. I came to the realization that I was fooling myself. This was just another hot pocket, carbs, but it tasted so good. It was then I realized why: carbs were my true friends, the ones I could get by with a little help of. Exercising was evil. It was Annie Wilkes from Misery trying to break my legs. I have lived my entire life embraced to carbs and being lazy so why stop now? I was trying to do the impossible; I was trying to change the currents of an ocean.
So for the remainder of the two weeks of that hot month of August, I was a paralyzed aestivating polar bear. And as Advil became part of my unhealthy diet I knew I was in the only Summer Heaven there was for me. I have not yet attempted to jog again ever since exercising tried to kill me but I no longer feel guilty about eating. I’d rather have the ability to eat and choose not to walk than be able to eat and not walk at all. Since the incident, I no longer struggle with weight issues. Or at least I like to believe so. I just let it sit in the back of my mind like I did most of that summer before I almost became Professor X.