Read Part 1 here.
I wish I could tell you the number meant something. But hear me when I say, it didn’t. Because what happens when you lose any weight, be it 10 lbs, 20 lbs, even 135lbs, is immeasurable. By a scale anyway. The fact that I had changed my life, my body, and my health is what weighs lovingly more.
I continued to run, nearly every single day for the next few months. In truth, thought that I had to. I was sure that if jogging for 45 minutes every day had whittled me from 268 to 135, then, well, jogging would keep me there too.
For the first time since I’d first stepped on that YMCA scale in June of 2005 and saw myself siding with 300lbs, I…was…terrified.
I hated running. It was no longer fun. I no longer felt accomplished or rejuvenated or energized after I stepped off the treadmill.
I even began to resent The View, my favorite program to pound out four miles to. I felt drained. I felt imprisoned. I thought for sure that the only way I would be thin, stay thin, was by keeping on keeping on. Running felt compulsive, dreadful, punishing, like an abusive relationship. I remember going to bed and dreading, dreading, oh dreading, the next morning when I’d have to run again.
I became gravely depressed. I had heard from at least a million and one people that “losing weight was the easy part, the hard part is maintaining it.” (Very unhelpful, by the way). I started to fear my future. How could I keep this up? How could I run so many miles, so consistently, each and every day, when I hated it so? Oh dear, I thought, this is going to be awful.
I developed sciatica. Essentially, a pinched nerve in my upper left leg. From running so much. From running everyday without a break. From not resting because I didn’t know rest was in the rule book of someone who had just lost half of her original body weight. I had no frame of reference for being, and staying in a normal weight range. I shall one day pen a book, “Maintaining Your Weight For Dummies.” Wait for it.
I stopped running for about a month. One hell of a month. I struggled through sessions on the elliptical and the arc trainer, I tried to walk, I could barely sleep without aching nerve pain in the side of my left bum cheek (you’re glad I have no self-censoring, huh?). I was positive I would pack on any pounds lost. I saw myself back at 268, the same place I started.
But you know what happened?
I did not gain weight. Not a single, solitary ounce.
Now, I don’t generally call bad occurrences blessings in disguise, really I don’t, but I do think it’s true of the sciatica. Had I not developed it, I might not have learned that I did not, in fact, have to run four miles every single day to remain un—morbidly obese. What term should I be using there?
When my body healed from the nerve pain, about a month later, I returned to running, but much more moderately than before. I ran four days a week, which of course, is not entirely moderate to any normal individual. I continued to run like this for maybe a year. And yet again, I found myself hating it.
It wasn’t until I got a job on “Shutter Island,” a film made in my hometown of Medfield, Massachusetts (population 12,000), that I realized I just could not run anymore. The hours were long- 12 hour days at the minimum, five and sometimes six days per week. I barely had time to do anything but immerse myself in Leonardo DiCaprio (and wasn’t that a chore ), let alone run four miles.
Within a week of working on set, I reached a fork in the road. Working on a Martin Scorsese movie meant I was actualizing my biggest dream to date. It was a job I’d always hoped to have. It was a film, a director, and a cast that meant as much to me as anything could, and I would sooner die than give it less than its due. To this day, it’s one of my favorite life experiences. And though that period files itself in my mind as, ‘That time I hugged Mark Ruffalo and took pictures with Leo,’ the film wasn’t the only beautiful change in my life.
I recall a specific day in March of 2008, when I had just left a day of filming, having driven from set to set to set, high on adrenaline. I got into my car, turned the key in the ignition, and just…stopped. I was supposed to be going to the gym. I just had to get there.
And for the first time since I lost lost all 135lbs, I breathed in, breathed out, and said, I can’t. I won’t.
I decided in that moment that…and I’m being really honest with you here… I would just let myself find the weight I was supposed to be. If not running everyday, or not running ever again, meant that I would gain five pounds, then I would accept each one of them. If ten pounds were in store for me, just as soon as I quit running, then so be it. So.be.it. Truly, I would let myself be. I would live the way I wanted to live, without feeling a tremendous sense of dread each morning when I opened my eyes and knew the treadmill was there, without feeling like my being at a healthy weight for the first time in my whole life hinged on exercise.
I closed my eyes and made near-immediate peace with myself. Not.a.moment.more.
I did not lose 135lbs only to find myself thirteen months later in an unhappy marriage to running. And if I did, I wanted a divorce.
I did not lose 135lbs to look good despite feeling bad.
I did not lose 135lbs because my sanity mattered less than vanity.
I lost 135lbs because I really thought…I really believed…that freedom would be what I found. And when I searched and didn’t find her…
I woke up.
Those first three minutes after I’d made my decision were quite possibly the most free I’ve ever felt.
Because just the same as I had made my mind up that I would lose the weight- lose it all- forever, I also made my mind up that I would be happy first.
The thing about losing weight is- I thought it would bring me joy. Pleasure and bliss. Confidence. Direction. And when none of those things came in my new skinny swag bag, I kept digging. Sure that they were in there somewhere.
But what I ultimately realized, in my Camry in March 2008, outside of a Paramount Picture, was this: If thin never brought me happiness, then no amount of it ever will. If none of those waif-ish wishes came true after 20 years of promising myself that one day, one day, I would slim, then none of them were to be wished in the first place.
I don’t like to live in regret. In fact, in 26 years, I can only think of three regrets: one of missing my mother at age seven, one of being unkind to a girl who deserved a friend in middle school, and one of telling my father I was embarrassed of him the year before he died.
Those have tucked themselves to bed in my memory. They’ll still be sleeping when I meet eighty.
But what I won’t regret, what I’ll not want to have wasted that precious mental cargo on, is my weight.
A massive part of my losing weight was to finally cut ties with what I perceived to be a fatal, lifelong hindrance. A handicap. I wanted to be free of worrying about my size. I wanted to forget that I was uncomfortable in front of people and just let myself be without feeling painfully aware of how big I was. I wanted to sing in front of a crowd without wondering in the forefront of my mind if my belly sang louder. Do they see the way my pants pucker? Don’t my shoes look too small in size 22 jeans?
In trying to find this freedom, I created another prison. I ran from weight and then I ran from weight some more. And when I realized what I’d done, when depression felt as though it was my default, I said,
I’d rather be what I was than what I am now.
And that’s saying a lot.
I pulled the key from the ignition, pressed my forehead to the steering wheel, and cried for thirty minutes.
And when I lifted my head again, I breathed in-deep, deep, deep- and realized that maybe I would not be as thin as I was, maybe I would not stay there, in that body, at that time… and… that…was…for the very first time…okay. Okay.
…Stay tuned for Part 3 and *I swear I’ll pay you $20.
*I never keep my word when I use asterisks.