Your name is Megan. Or Paul. Or Peggy. Or Michael.
You’re twentysomething. Or thirtysomething. And you’re tired. Tired of another month of looking in the mirror and being unhappy. Tired of another night where you feel exhausted yet wonder why you couldn’t get more done. Tired of getting burned by another weight loss scheme your friend told you about. It was wraps this time, or weight loss pills, or the ab coaster. It doesn’t matter. None of them have worked, and you’re just freaking tired of it all. You just want to smile and feel good about yourself, and that hasn’t happened since you were younger.
But there’s a teeny tiny part of you that doesn’t want to give up yet.
After all, why keep trying new schemes unless a part of you still believes you have a chance to turn things around? Finally, you let go of the idea that losing weight and feeling good about yourself is found in a pill or bottle, or in five minutes a day on a machine.
So you forget everything you’ve heard, and you just go for a walk.
You figure that if Frodo can walk to Mordor, you can at least walk around the block. You strap on your old sneakers that don’t get much use anymore, zip up your hoodie, and put one foot in front of the other. You make it approximately twenty feet before you start to breathe heavily, and you curse yourself for living at the bottom of a hill. But you make it a whole half mile out, and a half mile back. “That wasn’t the worst thing in the world,” you tell yourself. Maybe you can do it again tomorrow.
And you do.
For the next two weeks, every morning you get yourself to go for a mile walk. Because the changes are small, you don’t notice them. You’re just focusing on the walk that morning – get through it and start your day. Then, on Day 14, you realize that you’re no longer huffing and puffing at the top of the hill.
“Wow, 14 days is the longest I’ve ever stuck with anything,” you think. You don’t notice any physical changes, but you feel like you’ve given yourself the equivalent of a high-five. “My life sucks right now and I hate my job, but I have a boyfriend/girlfriend who loves me, and at least I did something for two weeks straight.”
Feeling victorious and like something’s working, you decide you are going to keep doing that something, at least for now. “What’s the equivalent of a walk in my diet?” you ask yourself. So, you swap out your Coke at lunch for water. Water for sugar – that’s gotta be a step in the right direction… right?
One day when you’re getting dressed, you notice something. You look down and notice your pants fit a little loser. You wonder if that could’ve actually been the soda. You make a note to research soda and negative health effects when you get to work that day. Work still sucks, but that’s okay – it’s supposed to.
You rush home to your significant other – Robert or Susan or Alex or Taylor – to tell them the good news about your clothes fitting better.
They give you a half-hearted “oh, that’s great honey” response, which kind of pisses you off… until you realize that last time (the wraps, shakes, and diet pills) you were also this excited.
Although YOU feel different, they don’t see it that way yet. So you just keep doing what you’re doing, hoping they’ll come around eventually when they see that you’re serious this time. Hoping what you’re doing is actually making a difference to get attention. Hoping that your efforts will matter enough in the real world to be real to to someone else.
Another month of walking and water and you have to buy a new pair of pants. While in the mall, you see people in the gym, and hope some day you can look like them. They look the part and act the part – using the equipment and wearing yoga pants. And not because they’re fat pants either, but because they look great in them. You wonder when that stage happens.
In your research about sugar (you bookmarked it and only just now got around to it), you stumble across a workout online. A bodyweight workout that doesn’t seem too bad. One that you can do at home.
So you give it a go that night. Robert/Susan gives you a strange look when you go into the backyard and attempt to do the workout. You get through half of a set before you collapse in a heap. “Holy shit, I’m exhausted. But at least I tried.”
Two days later, you’re so sore that walking down the stairs is a chore. You decide to reward yourself with giant soda for lunch – your brain is overwhelmingly happy after a few weeks without it (“Oh how I have missed you, sweet nectar of the gods,” it says), but something feels slightly off with the rest of your body. “I wonder what that feeling was?” you ask yourself.
At this point you’ve developed a little sense of accomplishment, and you’re in uncharted territory. This is normally the point where you would have given up in the past, but this time you want to keep going. Somehow, you muster up the courage to get back in the backyard for another attempt at that stupid exercise routine, and manage to get through one full set. You go inside with a little pep in your step, and a buzz that you’re unfamiliar with. Progress, even the smallest bit, it turns out, is exciting.
After month of bodyweight exercises, walking, and water, again the pants get a bit looser. You attempt to cook a meal yourself for date night, and it turns out horribly. You and Paul order Chinese food and watch reruns of Firefly. The next morning you groggily step on the scale and see it’s exploded up five pounds… and you’re devastated. Paul tells you to not worry about it, that he loves you just the way you are, and in fact he doesn’t see why you feel the need to fix yourself. You get angry.
Months go by, and the struggle slowly becomes less of a struggle. But it’s always weeks of success followed by steps backward… often with Paul. Despite your best efforts, he doesn’t want to join you on your morning walks; he wants to order in and watch TV rather than cooking together. He doesn’t mean any harm by it, surely… but it almost feels like he’s sabotaging your efforts to improve. Fights happen more frequently, and you worry about getting derailed after six months of solid progress. You can even make it through three full circuits of body weight exercises.
In one of your conversations with your friend, you’re told about this concept of using 20 seconds of courage to do things you’ve always been scared to do. So you walk back to your mall, and you sign up for a 1-month gym membership. You don’t do anything on the first day except wander around like a lost puppy, and then hop on the treadmill to walk for a bit.
Self-consciously, you’re embarrassed about being unfit in a room full of fit people, so you stick to the cardio machines in the corners where there aren’t any people. You find yourself at the gym late at night. There are fewer people at the gym late at night.
After a week, you work up the courage to try one of the weight machines… you’re not quite sure what it is, so after a few scary seconds of fumbling around with it, you quickly go back to the treadmill. One Friday night, you’re working out and you realize you’re the only person in the gym other than the guy behind the counter. Using that 20 seconds of courage again, you ask him to show you how to use the equipment. Turns out, the guy isn’t scary at all, and he gladly shows you how to use all of the machines you’re interested in.
You run home and excitedly email your friend about your gym experience. They are fired up for you, which is unusual. Maybe things are starting to come together.
You read an article online about how free weights are better for you than machines, so you make a commitment to yourself that you’ll try ONE free weight exercise every other week. It’s the final day of week 2, so you google “how to squat” and go to the gym to attempt your first real set of squats.
Excitedly, you run home to tell your friends, only to find out that you were squatting in a Smith Machine, instead of true barbell squats. Crap. But hey! It was a start, right? So you commit in two weeks to do REAL squats.
You’re not sure why, but trying a (real) squat – where you drop your butt wayyyy down – is a weird experience. It just feels…right. Your butt and legs feel alive or something. Not only that, but only after you’ve finished that you realize somebody was watching you.
“Wanted to come give you props – most people just squat a few inches and call it squat. You’re doing REAL squats. Well done! I’m Matthew or Ana or Carrie or Tyler, how long have you been working out here?” You sheepishly explain it’s your first official day of strength training, but you read as much as you could about squats and wanted to do it right.
And… holy shit! You met somebody in real life who thought you looked like you belong. You may have even just made a gym buddy! A week goes by in which you go to the gym at the same time every day hoping to run into Matthew or Ana or Carrie or Tyler, but you don’t see him/her. You keep squatting, and start mixing in some push ups and rows into your workouts.
You dig in. You read and research.
Things that would have scared you a year ago no longer seem so daunting.
You can’t do a pull up yet, but you set a goal to one day complete one. Weird.The thought of a pull up would have felt like “human flight” to you a few months back. Now it’s seems like something you can actually do with enough work.
The old you feels like a lifetime ago.
You start to do new things. The next weekend you hike to the top of a freaking mountain. Well, it’s more of a big hill, but whatever. You look out below and feel like a freaking rockstar.
You start thinking about your job. You know what? Maybe it isn’t supposed to suck. You think about taking night classes, and start asking to take projects that excite you.
And your boyfriend or girlfriend? They’re starting to come around too. They’ve occasionally ask you for advice, and you’ve seen them make a healthier decisions, too. Or, they don’t. And you’re okay with that too. You have a new strength, and might just need to see where it takes you.
Later that week, you stumble across one of your old friends from high school, who literally doesn’t recognize you at first. “Whoa. You look totally different! What did you do? How did you do it? You look amazing! Was it wraps? Shakes? Let me know, I’ve tried them all and I still got 50 pounds to lose. I’m desperate.”
“I went for a walk.” You say, and he/she gives you a weird look. So you say, “Shoot me an email and I can help you get started.”
You figure if they’re ready to try, he or she will message you. If not, he won’t. Either way, you have a pull-up to work on.