Thursday, February 17, 2011

You know, but you still don't realize

Since I live in a major metropolitan area, I don't have a car. In fact, I haven't had one for a few decades. With my (formerly) crippling back pain, a bicycle became essential to me for travel around the city. I could ride it to the shop, struggle through the agony of standing and walking in the shop long enough to buy what I needed, then get back on the bike and mercifully end my pain.

As I lost weight and pushed myself to walk more and more, I completely abandoned the bicycle. I felt that if I continued to rely on it, I wouldn't walk enough to return to a level of modest fitness. As those who have followed this blog from the start know, I walked until the pain overcame me, sat until it passed, walked again until I couldn't bear it, and sat again. Since that time, I haven't ridden a bicycle, but I have a lot of memories and associations of what it is like to be a person who weighs nearly 400 lbs. and relies on a bicycle.

All of the bikes I have had have been cheap ones and not designed for a person of great weight. They were for average folks who need them for basic utilitarian purposes. Because of this, one of the consistent problems I had was broken spokes, especially on the back wheel. Every 4-6 months, I'd have to take the bike to a repair shop and have the spokes fixed. It was expensive, but not as expensive as a new bike.

Recently, my husband said that his bike needed to be taken to the shop for spoke fixing. My reply was, "that's strange because I haven't ridden that bike for ages". It was only after a few beats that I realized that my riding that bike would have no greater effect on the spokes than his riding it would. At present, and for the first time that I recall in our marriage, I weigh nearly the same as my husband.

I now weigh myself regularly once a month on the first day of the month, and as of February 1, I noted that my husband and I are now almost exactly the same weight. I knew this, and it hasn't exactly been easy to forget. However, I have still not internalized the fact that my body's interaction with the environment is not what it once was. I'm unlikely to break things as a result of my weight. I'm unlikely to have difficulty fitting into spaces. I'm unlikely to bump things accidentally with my bulk. I know these things intellectually, but emotionally, I'm not at that point yet.

It's interesting to me that after all of this time and with total awareness of the objective facts, I still don't operate in the world very differently nor do I expect it to react to me differently. I still think that any spokes broken on our bicycle are "my fault". Part of the reason for this is that I still am fat, quite fat. In fact, I'm at the upper end of the "class I obesity range" based on BMI scales (I'm at 34.8 BMI). I also get reacted to as a very fat person, but my weight no longer is likely to do anymore damage than a tall man would do.

Part of my continued progress mentally with transitioning away from defining myself by my body is coming to terms with this tendency and actively making an effort to eradicate it. I now live a food and movement lifestyle which is very "normal" in many ways, but my thinking about myself is still not one in which I view myself as "normal" or even close to it (though I certainly view my husband as "normal"). This almost certainly will not inhibit my ability to continue to pursue a healthy body and life, but it will reduce my quality of life by perpetuating a negative self-image as a person who is destructively huge both to herself and everything around her. To that end, I'm going to endeavor to adjust this skewed self-image as I continue to develop an awareness of it.