When What Worked Before, Doesn't Anymore
CW: Weight Loss
This was me thirteen years ago, aged 42.
Damn but fifty-five seems like a lotta years. How did this happen? My life is more than half over barring some cyborgish medical advancements. Some things are drooping, other parts appearing dull and haggard. Lots of shit aches. I’m not near as fast, strong, or tireless as I once was. I look in the mirror each morning and see a hungover goblin. No trace of youth remains.
I’ve done a lot of stuff, but it doesn’t feel like I’ve done fifty-five years’ worth of stuff. There is much left to do, so many dreams unrealized, and not enough time.
But, as my recently-turned-octogenarian father says, any day above ground is a good one. And so, I am finally learning to be gentler with myself. Not so much physically gentle, but psychologically. Emotionally.
I got into exercise at the age of 25, and by my late thirties I loathed my marketing job and wanted to become a full-time writer. I chose fitness as my genre because of a business analysis: It was something I figured I could actually make a living at; there were enough money-making opportunities that it would allow me to quit my soul-sucking marketing job and have writing be my only job.
First, though, I had to drop some weight.
This was more marketing analysis stuff. I didn’t have a PhD in kinesiology or years as a celebrated personal trainer. I had skill as a writer and a researcher, and I turned that toward fitness. But for branding purposes, I also needed to look the part. That meant abs. Not six though. I’d settle for four if it meant I could still drink six-packs.
And so, I started running.
Prior to that I’d only been a lifter, so I was quite muscular, but my diet was never the best. I liked my beer and my gluttonous family dinners. I decided to outrun a mediocre diet. They say you’re not supposed to do that. I think there are exceptions. I became an exception, and it worked for about a dozen years. The one thing I was smart about was injury prevention. I learned how to push my body without wrecking it, because a wrecked body cannot burn off that night of beer and Hawaiian pizza yes I like pineapple on pizza it’s my favorite let me live my life.
Beyond looking fit was the no-bullshit myth-busting. I saw my mother fall for every weight loss scam there was, and when it came time to get myself in shape back in my mid-twenties, I figured well it makes sense to buy into the scams, but instead to drink less beer, eat less Wendy’s which was right across the fucking street from where I lived, and start exercising. And that’s what I did and holy shit it actually worked.
The hard part wasn’t knowing what to do. The hard part was knowing who I am and how to make myself do it.
Turns out, I’m kinda vain. But never mind that.
When I began my fitness column for the Los Angeles Times, a lot of my writing focused on motivation. I interviewed some of the world’s leading researchers on the science of behavior change, and it wasn’t just to write stuff for my readers, but to try it out on myself. There was a lot of self-experimentation and self-reflection, because I was never someone who truly wanted to exercise or to eat well. I have ADHD and we tend toward addictive behaviors, and alcohol and highly palatable food are things that can be difficult to resist.
Then 2020 arrived, a year I refer to as a “fucktactular shitnado of ass.”
A lot of stuff happened that year, including switching to writing history. And despite the unexpected success of that, I was a ball of stress.
When I’m stressed, I find it difficult to run. I didn’t have the mental capacity to do it any longer. After more than a dozen years of being a dedicated runner, and even qualifying for and running the Boston Marathon, I suddenly stopped.
And my weight went up, and it stayed there.
And it took more than three years to start running again.
Last year I registered for a half marathon and set a goal of a sub two-hour time. I left the training until late, but I pushed myself, being mindful of not fucking up my 55-year-old body. Two months ago, I ran that half marathon in a time of 1:54, and I felt great. Not only did I feel great about the accomplishment, but I realized that all that running had been good for my brain. It was burning off some of the anxiety and helping with my impulse control and just psychologically I felt a lot better. And when I feel better, I eat better. I also drink less. I realized I’d missed running, and was determined to keep doing it.
That very evening, life went to shit.
It had nothing to do with the return to running or the race. It was just weird timing. I won’t share details, but I was in terrible pain for two days, landing me in the ER. Modern medicine saved my life that day. I had surgery just over a week ago, and I’m not allowed to do any exercise at all for another month.
Today, I’m on my way to Mexico. In training for that race I’d run two months ago, I’d lost a lot of my “Covid weight,” and I was feeling great about having another two months to get even closer to that old beer hoisting photo in time for the beach.
I know that’s not the healthiest mentality. I fucking know it and I don’t endorse it. But as I said I always had a bit of vanity as a motivator. Sue me.
But then the health bullshit. And the realization that I need to be gentler with myself. There have been a lot of realizations these past few years, a lot of self-analyses.
Where am I going with this?
Where I’m going is that I spent years researching and self-analysing how to take good care of my body and I am still figured that shit out. Sometimes the expectations we set for ourselves are the toughest ones to live up to, but I do expect that I will remember how good I felt just a couple of months ago because I was running again. After the induced hiatus it may take some time to get back to it, but I will be gentle with myself and figure out how to make it happen once again.
Another thing I realized is that what worked yesterday might not work today. I mean this mostly from a psychological perspective. Life changes, throws shit at you, and what was routine and perhaps even easy suddenly is just fucking not.
Figuring out how to overcome that is difficult shit to figure out on your own. Now comes the sales pitch.
As I said, I spent a dozen years writing about fitness and motivation, and during that time I pissed a lot of people off. One of those people was Jillian Michaels of The Biggest Loser infamy who threatened to sue me over an exposé I wrote about her in the Los Angeles Times. I was a celebrated exposer of bullshit, but I also lifted up those who were the true experts, those who knew their shit and had a long track record of helping people.
Once or twice a year, in addition to promoting my sweary history, I promote ONE company. Just this one, and yeah I get some money if you buy their product. I do like the money, but I’d never promote anyone if it wasn’t great stuff. Every time I do so, there are happy customers I’ve sent their way sounding off in the comments. They adore Annie and Jennifer.
Did parts of my story resonate in some way? Did something work before but now it doesn’t and you’ll all what the fuck do I do now? The PEOPLE in the Balance365 program might be the ones who help you figure out the fuck you do now.
I said what I wanted to. It’s a Black Friday sale thing limited time only et-fucking-cetera. Go here before it’s over:
If that’s of no interested, there is always my book On This Day in History Sh!t Went Down.