Once upon a time…

…there was a little girl.

There wasn’t anything particularly extraordinary about her. She was your average, run-of-the-mill little girl. She had a wonderful family who loved her very much. She went to school, did average school girl things and discovered a love for books and reading.

As she got older, she tried out a number of different sports as was the norm. Nothing really fit until she turned to cycling in her final year of high school. That particular activity worked for her so she pedaled her way through a difficult year. She was fit, healthy, tanned and in great shape. She spent the summer at the end of that year cycling, swimming and generally being carefree. But all good things must come to an end and university beckoned.

Ah… university! On-campus living! It was her first experience of living away from home and of course, she did was all the other first years were doing and thoroughly misbehaved. There was too much alcohol and bad food consumed, the habits she’d developed the previous year went out the window. In the end the only physical activity she was getting was the daily walks to and from the university campus.

On occasion, she would drag her bike out and go for ride. When she got suspended from university for six months for poor academic performance, she really got into shape – cycling, swimming and going to aerobic classes nearly every day. But once again, upon her return to university, all thoughts of exercise slowly disappeared and she became lazy and unfit. But not excessively so. She put on a little weight but not too much as she didn’t have a car and had to walk a lot.

Time passed and she graduated from university with a pretty useless degree. She moved back to her home town and wondered what to do with her life. Much time was spent unemployed, schlepping around on the couch doing little. Finally there was employment and once again, exercise entered her life in the shape of walking to work each day. She was still reasonably trim at this point, not eating too badly and taking some care of herself.

Eventually she found herself in Melbourne, in a relationship that wasn’t exactly healthy. She was unhappy. Her partner was unhappy so they took comfort in food. Too much food. Too much McDonalds, KFC, Hungry Jacks, Red Rooster. Eaten all the time and each sitting would be an excess of food. The girl started to struggle to walk up stairs. The fit, muscled legs she’d had for so long started to disappear under a layer of fat. She still walked but it seemed harder and walking up hills was a torture. She wouldn’t let people take photos of her and never looked in a mirror when not fully dressed.

One day something really bad happened. The girl was changing the bed linen when all of sudden, her back started to hurt. It started with a twinge but then she found she couldn’t stand up. In fact, she couldn’t sit either. She was in agony and couldn’t move. She spent the day lying flat on her back, wondering if she would be able to walk again. When she finally had to go to the toilet, she threw up. The trip to the doctor was a pain-induced blur. The prognosis was a prolapsed disc in her spine. For the next three days she lay in bed or slumped on the couch, waiting for the pain to subside and trying to accept the fact that she would have to deal with this for the rest of her life.

But of course, all things must change. The relationship she was in? Well, it ended and it didn’t end well. For six months, the girl took comfort in food, eating all the wrong things. Her whole life was imploding around her. She hated her job, hated her boss, hated her life and well, she hated herself. She hated the fact that she could no longer see her toes when she looked down. She hated everything that she had become. The problem was it was at such a subconscious level, she was still kidding herself that she was okay physically. But it was all a lie.

She hated being in the office with her boss so every day she would go for a walk at lunchtime. She would spend an hour walking around the city. She did this for months and gradually noticed a change. Her jeans were starting to feel a little too big. She started feel a little better about herself and walking up a flight of stairs no longer left her out of breath. Movement seemed easier, she had to buy new jeans. She started to remember what it was to have a body that could move freely. And this was good.

Two of her friends were getting married and she was in bridal party. She decided early on that she didn’t want to be a frumpy bridesmaid so she joined the gym. Her first consultation with a trainer wasn’t a lot of fun. Finally she was forced to really see what she had done to herself. She was over 80kg and this was after she lost some weight. It was hard for her to accept that she was fat. Once she accepted the reality, she worked hard. Change came, the weight started to come off. She could run up a flight of stairs and not be out of breath.

Of course, there were times when she fell off the exercise wagon and put all the weight back on. She was constantly ill for one winter and had trouble just making it work, let alone go to the gym. But she always fought back and could remember what it felt like to be able to do things without being out of breath. The pain in her back had become a minor niggle. Life had become better. And then she rediscovered cycling…

The End (for the moment anyway)

Hi, my name is Lauren and this is a picture of me taken in 2002.

This was before I’d started doing any exercise and after years of eating badly. The thing that upset me the most about this picture when I finally found it was that I have fat ankles. I’m also not overly thrilled with how fat my arms are either. I find my posture interesting. What’s with the hunched over shoulders? It’s like I’d forgotten how to stand straight. There’s another picture of me taken on the same day where you can see my wonderful double-chin :/ I think that one can stay hidden.

Here’s an even better one from 2005…

Mmmm… aren’t I a stunner? (I did adore that skirt though)

The question for me is that how could I let this happen to myself? When I was 18 I was in amazing shape. I was a size 12 – 10 on a good day – but I still thought I was fat. It kills me now that I ever though that. I’ve had a good grounding in nutrition, I understand what a standard portion size means. I knew and understood the basic premise that if you eat too much fatty food, you’re going to put on weight. But I did it anyway. I ate enormous amounts of food. I ate too much and I didn’t exercise. I got fat, real fat for someone with my body type. I can’t even hide behind that lamest of the lame excuses I’m just big boned because I’m not. I have small shoulders and scrawny arms. I can’t say I have skinny legs because the cycling I did when I was younger put down a certain amount of muscle and it never really went away. But I definitely had more shapely legs then the ones I ended up with after years of gorging myself on bad food.

I wish I could go back in time and fix the mistakes I made when it came to how I treated my body. After all, you only get one and I’m fairly certain my weight caused the prolapsed disc in my spine. And of course I made it worse because I used it as an excuse to not exercise for a really long time.

The gym was good but I found I could intimidate the trainers into not giving me tough programs. That was until I met Tracey who saw through all my bullshit. She didn’t ignore my back problems but she certainly challenged me and changed my perception of what I was physically capable of. I discovered that I’d be holding myself back, hiding behind the excuse of my back when I could’ve been doing so much more. She had me doing exercises I was certain I couldn’t and lifting weight I thought were too heavy. And she was right, I could do it.

Of course, I don’t go to the gym any more. These days it’s all about the bike. And I love it. I love it so completely I can’t imagine it not being a part of my life. I still have so many issues with my appearance but for whatever reason, I can put them all aside when it comes to getting into my cycling gear and going for a ride. I don’t feel self-conscious when I’m on my bike, which is weird because there’s nowhere to hide when you’re kitted up. Okay, so the bib shorts are helping a bit but I find that I simply don’t care. The not caring – that’s a good thing.

Me today. Well, not today, taken a few weeks ago about halfway up to Kinglake.

I look at the photo and see all my flaws. I can see the pudgy stomach I’m probably going to be stuck with for good but it’s counter-balanced by the trim legs and slimmed down arms. I don’t have a double-chin any more.

I suppose I’m writing this because most of the time I focus on what I’m not (skinny, gorgeous, fabulously rich) rather than seeing what I have achieved. I never, ever pat myself on the back and say “well done”. I barely acknowledge that I’ve managed to do something that the majority of Australians apparently can’t. So go team me! I will always see myself as terribly flawed (and fat) but sometimes it’s nice to acknowledge that I did take control of my life and did something about the shape I found myself in.

To finish off on a musical note, Tim Minchin pretty much sums it up with this particular ditty…

One Thought on “Once upon a time…

  1. SMcF on August 12, 2012 at 21:12 said:

    I’m surprised I’m the first to comment on this post. All I have to say is bravo! You’ve done a fantastic job of restructuring yourself. What guts, what determination. Simply BRAVO!

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