So, this is a bit different. Well – for me, it’s a bit different. Being an introverted writer and what you’d call pretty bloody private, talking about personal stuff is a Very Big Deal and for the most part I just don’t. But then I thought about some of the blogs I like to read, and how brave and sharing those bloggers are, so I thought … okay. I’ll give it a go.
But to spare those of you who aren’t interested in one writer’s journey back to physical fitness, I shall now go behind the cut!
Still here? Great! So let’s go …
Anyone who’s laid eyes on me in the flesh lately, or even seen a recent photo, is perfectly aware that right now there is – to put it bluntly – far too much flesh. I’m certainly aware of it. I’ve been aware of it for a while, but like so many folk in my position I’ve been wading neck deep in the River of Denial. However, in the last month I’ve waded out again and am now determined to slay the beast once and for all.
It wasn’t always the case. I wasn’t always a butterball. As a kid I was really active, what with the school sports and the playing netball and then getting my own horse, which involved enormous amounts of physical activity. When you factor in a mother who loved cooking, and almost always cooked fabulously healthy meals (unless you count the occasional treacle tart … sigh …) then I never had a weight problem. I did put on some weight towards the end of university – for various reasons the physical activity got put on hold – but then I joined a gym and got very very fit and slender. Possibly too slender. 54 kilos. Size 10 jeans just out of the dryer were loose on me. And then I went to the UK and started running, because the UK gyms were stupidly expensive and frankly not very safe. That was brilliant. I got super running fit, covering around 40 miles a week. I weighed 57 kilos. After that I went to work professionally with horses, which meant even more intense physical activity – and that’s when the wheels fell off the wagon.
Basically, because of the horses, I broke my immune system. The doctor I saw in Buckingham thought I had leukemia, my white blood cell count was so bad. But no, it was just a shocking case of strep throat. I sort of recovered, and continued working with the horses, but I never really got over it and eventually I came home. That was in 1984, and from that point on I just kept getting sick. Many many cases of flu, bronchitis, pleurisy, even swine flu at one point. In the end I developed chronic fatigue syndrome and that put paid to any thought of physical activity. It certainly ended my lifetime of having horses. By a rough reckoning I ended up being hamstrung by that crappy disorder for about 15 years. I had it a long time before I realised what was going on, and a lot longer after diagnosis because nobody really understood it and I kept trying to exercise myself better.
Yeah. That was dumb.
But in the end I figured out how to deal with the condition, slowly moved into the recovery phase, started exercising again, and got fit again, and shaved off enough flab to get within cooee of my optimum weight. 68 kilos. That was in time for my first major research trip to the UK, when I was romping around castles and leaping up the sides of cliffs hardly breaking a sweat.
Then something went wrong right after that trip – I still don’t know what, possibly a sinus infection that went haywire – and that, allied to the spinal issues that started cropping up (a combination of the accumulated fallout from car accidents, riding accidents and hours and hours of sitting in front of a computer writing books) meant I got weak, I lost fitness, I gained weight. Then it became a vicious circle – too weak to exercise, get depressed, eat crap, gain weight, more strain on the back, more weakness, eating more crap … I’m sure you get the picture. The wonderful culmination of all this was waking up on my birthday nearly 3 years ago in acute distress, having in my sleep (!) ruptured one lower lumbar disc and prolapsed 2 more. Suffice it to say I experienced levels of pain unsurpassed in my experience – that was, until I managed an abcessed jawbone last year. I repeated that little adventure earlier this year (because going into shock from pain once apparently isn’t enough) and also dealt with a neck issue that kept me immobile for weeks, plus more niggles from my very temperamental lower back. Let’s just say the last few years have been … extremely trying.
Which brings us to now. And now I’m ready to put all that behind me, to restore myself to health in all its facets, to rediscover the happiness and contentment and advantages that come with being fit.
I guess I’m confessing all of this because I’m thinking I’m not the only person out there in the world who’s had some physical challenges, who’s not at the weight or fitness level they once were, and desperately want to be again. Or who’ve never reached their fitness goals, but want to. I’m thinking perhaps folk who find this blog via my writing or my FB page might recognise themselves in my story and be tempted to join me on this journey to regain lost health and strength and fitness.
I’d certainly like to share the adventure. Be accountable to the world so I can no longer kid myself. Share the blogs that have inspired me, recipes, stuff like that. Also some thoughts I have about the the emotional process of getting fit and losing weight, the challenges, the pitfalls, and the way our culture treats human physicality. I say human because when it comes to body issues both men and women are harmed by some aspects of our culture. I’d like to explore those and create a safe space for discussion and support. Fat is not just a feminist issue. It’s a human issue. As a species, in too many cultures, we are suffocating ourselves both with excess flesh and the crippling expectations of being young and beautiful and a particular body type, no matter how unrealistic that might be. I want to escape from both traps. I want to breathe freely again. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in that.
So now, in this Talkative Writer blog, I’ll be putting up posts not about writing and the writing life, but about my journey towards getting fit again, for good this time. Poor health is a killer of creativity. It’s a killer of meeting deadlines. It’s a killer of happiness. I’m tired of not liking what I see in the mirror. I’m tired of struggling to write because I’m unwell, because my back hurts, because my brain is foggy and sluggish. I’m tired of sitting on the sidelines. It’s past time I ran out onto the field of life and played the game for all it’s worth.
I’d love it if you ran out there with me …