Friday, July 13, 2007

Weight, Self Esteem and the Ironman Pill

You wanna' hear something cool?
I was checking up on my peeps who were doing Ironman Coeur D'Alene a few weeks ago and I came across this story on the IronmanLive web page about a guy who went from 320 pounds to Ironman in 5 years. You've heard this story before. It might have been this guy or it might have been another similar story. In fact there are more of us than you think in the triathlon world who have accomplished something like this or dream of it. But that is not the cool part. The cool part is I emailed Andy Staton and not only did he email me back, but he called. And called again until he got me on the phone in person.
The first email I sent him gave me an auto-reply telling me that he was actually in Switzerland doing an Ironman when I first wrote him. When we finally connected, he said the most amazing things to me. It's taken me a couple of weeks to fully process them.
No. 1 was about the book that he may someday write, called "Everyday I Wake Up Fat." Basically he said, even though he lives in an Ironman's body, he is still the same fat kid he always was inside. I know everyone is different, but this really floored me. Also, it was eye-opening because I wondered if I would feel the same way after I (eventually) complete my dream to do an Ironman. I think part of me wants to view the Ironman as a pill I will swallow and I'll wake up and all of a sudden I'll have this pristine self-esteem. Some people wear their Ironman tattoos as badges. And I know more than one person who in my mind I imagine them waking up every morning and the first thought in their head is, "I am an Ironman!!!! Now I'm ready to start my day -- I rock!"
I mean really, if anything can repair self esteem it would be this right? To swim 2.4 miles, bike 112, and run a freaking marathon (26.2 miles) right after. All in the same freaking day, all under time clicking away towards the 17 hour limit. It shows the ultimate in discipline. We all know you can't do that without putting in the training hours -- the deposits in the Bank of Ironman. Also, you have to dig down deep to find the strength in yourself to not only show up every day to every workout but to give it your best. And, to make it the 15 or 16 or 17 hours it takes to complete the race.
Besides, my self esteem isn't low. Some days it is high and some days well, it is isn't. Most of us have days like that, right? And most days it isn't a issue for me at all, well at least on days that I work out. But, as a kid I was teased relentlessly for being the fat kid. So, put me in the fat 8-year-old's body and get some kids yelling at me and well, it all comes flooding back. Yeah, never bully a fat kid in front of me, 'cause well I just might go off on you --and it won't be pretty. Most of you don't know this about me, but by the time I turned 15 years old I weighed 275 lbs. It is my little secret. Well not anymore I guess.
Once you have low self-esteem it takes time to gain it back. Years. ...18 years later, mine is fine due to hard work, growing up (and moving out of my parents house). Having a loving husband and kids doesn't hurt, either.
But, you never do really forget what it feels like to be in that desperate place though. Maybe that is what Andy is talking about. That feeling of trying your best (for years) and failing. Or the feeling of not having to tools to control the situation (your weight loss). That feeling of being in a society where you can be rejected so easily for one flaw. But also, the powerful feeling when you do gain control. And remembering to keep that control in check and not to overdo it. Most of us who have struggled with our weight have gone down that lane too.
After loosing 100 lbs and making it to my all time low weight of 170 lbs, I hit rock bottom and I could go no further. No matter what I tried I was stuck at 170. I think I should have been happy with that. And if I hadn't been a teenager or if I'd had some sensible guidance (like Coach G's guiding us to the Your Perfect Weight article) then I might have been OK. But I failed yet again because I couldn't come down any further. I wonder what my goal was. I don't remember. But at 5' 9 -- 170 sounds pretty good to me. In fact, my current goal would to be anything under 200, just so I could say my weight was one something instead of two-hundred and....something. Its sort of like gas prices, if you aren't paying attention, you might actually say, "hon, guess what? I only paid $1.67 for gas today, can you believe it?" But you actually mean $2.67. .....What was I talking about? Oh yeah. My weight. Well, hmmmm......let me get back on track.
The other huge piece of insight that Andy gave me was also depressing. And well, deep down inside I always knew it was the truth. He told me that even though he is and Ironman and Is as fit as hell and built, and a perfectly healthy weight now, that it is a struggle each and every single day to stay that way. It never gets easier. Fuck.
Like I said, deep down I knew it was true. So, maybe eating a bag of chips or having a huge bowl of ice cream isn't OK just because I'm training for a Half-Ironman. Yep. I already knew that. Just didn't want to admit it.
He did allow himself a lot of latitude to eat more on the longest of the Ironman training the peak 3 months before the race, but that was it.
So to all you TRIgirl bloggers out there who have been talking about being fit, keeping your weight down and meeting your goals, remember this. You are never in this struggle alone. It is a life-long struggle but you can do it! And slow & steady progress is the hardest kind of progress to make, but it is also the kind that lasts.


TriGirl 40 said...

Great post! Inspirational in many ways - from the unavoidable truths to the motivating messages. You rock, Triathlonmom - and you are the role model that needs to be out there - to help more women see past fashion magazines to recognize true beauty, health and fitness.

jones said...

you are so awesome and that is so cool that your ironman friend called!! you are totally going to reach that ironman goal and i'm really excited to be doing the patriot aquabike with you! you have the contagious energy that i tell everyone about when they ask me why i'm doing this whole crazy triathlon thing!

Sarah said...

Thanks for writing this. Really.

Melissa said...

Trimom - where to begin. you are AMAZING! period.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Jonah :)


Diane said...

I think your blog should be required reading for all female athletes.

Renae said...

I love this post! And I am glad that you are going to be around for the start of the race -- it'll help the nerves to see smiling friendly familiar faces.