Monday, May 11, 2009

The Leanness of My Tree

Last week, I thought my mother had discovered my blog. My initial reaction, as it has been in the past, was sheer panic. I wanted to shut it all down and hide it away. I wanted to burn my writing, including my most recent story. I wanted to disappear back into nothingness. I didn't want her to be upset. And I free-fell for a minute. But then in the most intense moment of clarity, the panic dissolved and floated away. It was the first time I folded up the fear and set it adrift on a burning barge. I mean, really, I'm a grown ass woman and, surprisingly, I'm allowed to feel what I feel and write what I want to write. It's the silliest and simplest of epiphanies, and frankly one of the more liberating ones for me. I am not nothing.

The fact is, she may have discovered the blog. I'm not sure. I hadn't communicated with her in a long, long while, until this weekend, and then it was only by short and blues-filled emails. I can tell she is on a downward spike. This is something that also induces panic for me and my reaction was that it was because of me. Thinking clearly now, it's obviously not. But, lord, I'm so slow at all of this. Each time, I shake a bit more free the stuff that's tangled in my tree.

Here's another story of simple realizations. My spin gym invited a Bod Pod to visit and conduct testing throughout the weekend for members wanting such a thing. A Bod Pod is a space-capsule-looking chamber that apparently is one of the most accurate tests of body fat, lean muscle mass, resting heart rate and metabolic resting rates. That last thing means the minimum amount of calories one should eat even if you're lying in bed all day. If you eat less than your metabolic resting rate one runs the risk of burning off muscle, not the kind of weight you want to lose. As an athlete, I was beyond excited to see where I was. As a woman not unaffected by the bombardment of "ideal standards" and having fought a life-long battle to deflect and reject my enslavement by scale #'s and jean sizes, I confess I was a bit anxious. The athlete in me most certainly dominated in that I wanted to know what could improve and set a realistic path on how to improve it. When the practitioner said, Ok strip down to your speedo bathing suit, the enslaved woman in me, no matter how small, choked me up for a nanosecond. It was not a noticeable choking by any means. I didn't hesitate. And I certainly refused to act coy and say self conscious things. That, in my mind, adds two fold to any private embarrassment. Besides, I'm an anti-shame kinda girl even if I have to fake it.

After a series of questions, I slipped off my sweats and put on a bathing cap, and I did not say a word or skip a step when the practitioner instructed me to step on a high-powered, fancy scale where I had to be very still. I couldn't see what the number was, which was fine with me, and I then stepped into the space chamber to complete the tests. Outside of the chamber, I heard the results print and I dressed, quelling fears and mapping out worst case scenarios. I was not anxious then, only accepting what was to be told to me. I had even asked the guy if people freaked out going into the little bod pod and he said, no, only when they heard the results of the test. People like to be in denial, he told me.

When I was younger, the last time I took a body fat test, I was about 23-24%, which is healthy and fairly average. I prayed that my current number wasn't larger than that though I had to have been about 15 years older from when that test was taken. I have wondered a lot about the changes our body goes through as we age. I work out a lot, but my weight has not gone down much at all. Where my fat is distributed too is different. That doesn't bother me, much, though I do wonder about all of that. I will admit that I prefer the bigger butt-flat stomach days of my youth more than the shrinking butt-softer stomach days of now. But what can I do? I think a lot about what am I not doing correctly, not so much in a vain sense but very much from a performance sense. It all fascinates me really, which is why I couldn't wait to hear about the Bod Pod results. Though as I waited, my anxiety climbed.

As the papers came out of the printer, the practitioner said, "Impressive." And for some reason I said out loud, nervously, "Uhoh." I was mad that I inexplicably blurted that because the guy looked at me, puzzled, and handed me the papers. He said, "You're the leanest woman I've tested so far." My body fat was 17.2%. I stared at the number simultaneously stoked and suspicious. My resting heart rate was 60 (excellent), my blood pressure very low. He pretty much told me awesome job, keep it up. I said, "So, my weight not going down even after all the working out?" He told me my muscle mass has taken the place of fat. Who cares about the scale #, which embarrassed me because I say that kind of stuff all the time to myself and other people.

I wondered, after all my self love and low-level self consciousness, if I had still become a woman who can't see herself clearly in the mirror. Having a piece of paper that told me how strong and healthy I am made me incredibly sure of every decision I've made health wise; being a vegan, commuting often on my bike, putting down and passing on my baking talents, working hard at cycling and strength training. I plug along because it feels good and right, physcially and emotionally, but I was oddly suspicious of the validation. Light headed, I unlocked my bike and took a ride to the beach after the test. My shoulders were back and I checked myself out in every window and thought, man, right? Look at me. I'm strong and low-fat, baby! Though duh, right? My clarity seems foolish and elementary sometimes. But I just gotta say again that each time, I shake a bit more free the stuff that's tangled in my tree.


kristen said...

it's so hard to shake that scale/size thing, even when i'm fighting strong.

woot, on all your hard work paying off. impressive, hell ya!

i would venture to guess that your scale might not be budging but there are probably inches that are long gone all over your body.

you're my workout hero you know.

nec said...

You rock! You are such a strong, beautiful, amazing woman! Seriously, I really admire your dicipline and strength in so many different aspects of your life. I hope you stop to admire all your amazing qualities too!

Michael B. said...

Another awesome post.
I can so relate to the "a woman who can't see herself clearly in the mirror." I have lost 90+ lbs a few YEARS ago and still feel like the fat girl. Once in awhile I might catch a glimpse walking past a mirror in the gym and think 'not bad' but mostly it's just seeing all the things that 'need' improvement. I talk the talk of self appreciation and body acceptance to everyone around me, but only about 60% of me believes it... Here's to bumpin' up THAT number!

DJ said...

Congratulations!! I think as you get older health becomes less about luck and more about knowledge so, as you said, all the decisions you've conciously made have helped form this lo-fat amazon you are today!

Anonymous said...

I am overweight, and I have anxieties, but it is interesting to me how the ladies who are at the top of their athletic game suffer from the same anxieties. Is there a place where we are ever going to be content? Is there a place where we can just "be"?

madness rivera said...

Thanks everybody.

Michael that's awesome! I didn't know that about you. Bump that # up right quick because you have a lot to celebrate about yourself.

Ah man, Hil, I didn't want to come across as not content. I am completely content with my body even if that body fat test came out much higher. My anxieties are very very minimal and I'm as close to just being as anybody. No doubt. So I give a resounding YES to your questions. I was stoked that my test came out so good. I am lovin' all of this no matter what because my body supports me in the most perfect ways and I'm 100% grateful for that. My kids love this body, my man really loves this body. I was amazed that all the hard work played out in spades on the test. And really, why be amazed? So yes, yes, yes, girl. I'll add that the anxieties get squashed more with age because when you get older you think: Really who gives a shit other than to be as healthy as possible.

nola said...

You're my athletic shero! I'll just have to hop over to your blog when I need motivation ...

j-boo said...

That is SO FANTASTIC! I am so proud of you and you should be very proud of yourself too! You work hard to be a lean girl and all that hard work really DOES pay off!!

Thanks for being so strong and wonderful. You are an inspiration to so many!

Big hugs, Jinxi

the kitschen table said...

What a great way to put it...the stuff tangled in my tree. That really helps me think about how to shake some of my own tangled stuff free. Thanks!


Kristin C. said...

Awesome, Madness. Just so awesome. You're going to live 'til you're 120.

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