Monday, August 10, 2009

My Roller-coaster

I have been reading Dara Torres's book Age is Just a Number and decided to talk about my battle with nutrition. As a 44 year old, mother of four, my body has been through many changes in my lifetime. I went from being a what my parents thought was a stocky pre-teen, quite frankly looking back at those pictures I don't see it, to a HS athlete with an eating disorder, to a college athlete with an eating disorder, to a pregnant mother who did not want to risk her children's health, to a very overweight mother, to an obese athlete, to a trim athlete, and now back to an overweight athlete. What hasn't changed in all of this time is my self-image. I have always, regardless of my weight, been that twig trapped inside the whale. What I have learned in the past 10 years that there is some legitimacy to the phrase "fit and fat", and I would challenge my skinny sedentary counterparts to anything to prove that, VO2 Max test, resting heart rate, jump test, etc. Yet deep inside there is still this thought on some back burner of my conscience that weight is some how connected to self worth. I often sit and reflect on how I got to that place.

I had very active parents and we were an adventurous family. I skied from the time I could stand, played all kinds of sports, raced on skis, skates, my feet and bikes, before settling on swimming in college. I loved to hike, backpack, boulder, you name it, if it was a physical challenge, I was up for it. That was the essence of our life, being active was essential to living. My mother was a Physical Education/Health teacher so nutrition at home was important, but so were manners and the "clean plate club" applied as a form of respect, regardless of hunger level. I know now that eating too much good food is just as bad as eating junk, but when I was about 10, I came to realize in one instance when I ate myself sick that I felt better after I got rid of the contents of my stomach. This slowly developed into a habit, I would purge whenever I could if I was uncomfortable after eating. It was a way of managing that "clean plate". This early experiment had nothing to do with my weight, it was just a convenient way of appeasing my parents and family elders wishes at the dinner table and not feeling bloated for the rest of the night.

When I became a HS athlete, I thought I had a good self image at first, that was until I had a soccer coach tell me I was too heavy. If I lost some weight I would be more valuable to the team as I would be able to move faster. I was 5'6" tall and weighed 118LBS with big BUTT muscles, which he attributed to too much pasta. In my 10 grade year in HS I began to realize that I could use the same principles of overcoming feeling stuffed to curb calories so I began this life of either not eating, or throwing up 10 minutes after I ate (waiting a bit so that I would not starve). I maintained this as a carnivore and vegetarian alike right up until I learned I was pregnant with my oldest, Justin. What I remember about the day I learned I was going to be a mother was that I was relieved that I was being given permission to eat, and to get fat. I was so ecstatic in both the usual ways and because I wouldn't be pressured to be hungry for awhile. I gained 60 lbs with that pregnancy. I lost all but 10 afterwards doing 3 workouts a day.

My trouble with obesity started with my 2nd, 3rd, and 4th pregnancies. What I gained I could not loose but there was no way I was going back to purging, I was so sick during my second pregnancy that I became claustrophobic with the amount of regurgitating I did. I now hated to throw up. To this day doing so really gets me upset because I feel like I am choking and there is some lack of control that I cannot get past. In the years between Anna and Chris I ballooned to well over 200 LBS. I tried everything to loose the weight, including endurance cycling, and for 4 years (1998-2002) I was averaging 250-400 miles per week at 15-16 MPH. What did I get for my efforts? I was a whopping 6 lbs lighter. It was at that point that I realized that this was going to be a lifelong battle. My doctor sent me to all these other doctors, who insisted of course that I was lying about what I ate and how much exercise I did, and one even insisted that I had tampered with her equipment when my resting HR was logging in at 53 BPM in her office. Needless to say, my doctor was furious and told me that I would have better success seeking the answers to Syndrome X on the internet than to deal with an endocrinologist. So that was what I did. I started my life of eating healthy on a low Glycemic Index meal plan. I lost 70lbs within months, weight fell off. I swore that this was the answer to everything and it was for about 3 years when life stress slowly replaced workout stress and the number on the scale started to climb.

At some point I had had enough and decided to change all this again. So I needed a goal that I was committed to and I needed help getting there. After a few attempts of jump-starting my decision, my journey really began in earnest about 5 weeks ago. In that time I have followed my training plan to the best of my ability, only wavering on effort when I was physically challenged. I have lost only 5 lbs, to date, which creates a whole wealth of emotions, from discouragement to encouragement. I eat healthy and within my caloric projections to loose weight and I feel much better. I tend to get emotional when I am treated like I don't know anything about training.I have studied exercise physiology quite a bit. I also get upset when I am told that my cross country trip will be a great deal easier if I loose the weight (unless you are directly involved with my training plan). Trust me I know, and I am working at it.

With that said, one problem that I find with being heavy while I am training is dealing with heat. Today was a scorcher and spent a good 3.5 hours in it working hard. I put in 58 miles before I bailed. I spent a good deal of time getting emotional about the shortcoming, especially after having to take extra time off this weekend, but I do know as a coach that I would probably be writing this from the hospital if I had continued. I was riding along, just starting to feel kind of sluggish and started to notice that my hamstring was getting painfully cramped up. I changed my position, even stopped for a few minutes to try to resolve things, in 10 minutes I went from riding well to hardly being able to support my pedaling. It hurt so bad. It took until I threw up to call home. I knew that even just trying to make it the last 8 miles after experiencing those symptoms could be perilous. Before you comment, In the 3.5 hours I went through 5 bottles (2 electrolyte, 3 water) and I ate as well. My daughter Anna came to my rescue and after a long cold shower, some lunch, and some sleep, I still have a major headache and I am still a bit queazy, but I am working at re-hydrating. I know that tomorrow is a new day! I also know that I am not due in Seattle until the 25th of June. I am taking the suggestions I have gotten today for managing heat and will start a trial and error study of what works.

Tomorrow? A day in the cold waters of Minnewaska and an evening time trial!

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