A few weeks ago, the murmurs began. They were quiet, at first, but over time they increased in volume and frequency.
“You’re out of shape!”
“You look old and run down!”
“You are on the cusp of moving from chubby to fat!”
“That’s not an adorable Dad Bod that’s just plump!”
The voices were judgmental, sometimes pretty harsh, and rarely were they understanding of the situation.
After all, I am 57, soon to be 58, and except for the two months I spent on a raft on the Mississippi River, I have been stuck at home like the rest of the world.
I tried to be active. Early in the pandemic my son, Owen, and I, trained for a marathon in Ireland that was, sadly, cancelled due to COVID-19. I have, off and on, tried a variety of efforts to reduce my increasing body mass.
I tried to eat less. I tried to eat at different times. I tried to not eat carbs. I tried to fast. We bought a treadmill and I have tried to maintain a pattern of using it. I have done better than I hope but not nearly as well as I should.
I had put on a fair amount of weight before I took my trip down the river for Hope on the River. I lost a lot of that weight by the time I arrived in Baton Rouge.
Today, truth be told, all that weight, and probably a bit more, has returned to my middle-age frame.
They weren’t from people being mean or cruel to me.
They came from my own head.
They were my voices and they have gotten louder every single day.
I don’t write or post this to get sympathy from anybody. I have eaten well. That’s more that can be said for billions of people on this planet.
That I worry about my belly, my butt, my waist and my moobs is clearly a 1st world problem. I know that. So, don’t anybody interpret this as a cry for help or need for pity or understanding.
It is, however, the reality of my life right now that at 57 I feel older than I have ever felt, and I absolutely hate that feeling.
Up until the time I was 39 I punished my body terribly. Not from exercise or sports. But from smoking, drinking, eating and generally acting as though my physical being would be immune from my bad choices.
From 39 until today I have tried, with mixed but determined success, to be better to my chassis.
I’ve run 7, maybe 8 (I can’t remember) marathons….a bunch of half marathons….smaller races…biked others…skied others…quit smoking….and at a minimum be mindful of my need to care and tend for myself better than I once did.
To be honest, it hasn’t been until COVID-19 locked down the world that it has become so much more challenging for me to grab control of my physical fitness.
I know I should be less hard on myself. Or at least I tell myself I should be less hard on myself.
Yet, there’s a price one pays for being too lenient on themselves at my age.
If anybody body shames me, it is me. I don’t really care whether other people thing I am chubby, plump, fat or otherwise.
Nor do I care whether they think I look awesome with my shirt off, my jeans snug on my butt, or a rough-hewn chin. (Please note: I do not. If they are snug they are just too tight because they are too small for me. And it is hard to be rough-hewn when you have more than one chin!)
I want to be physically better because I want to do all the things I want to do as long as I am able to do them.
I hate running. But I love that I am still able to run.
I am thrilled with the capacity to move. To bend over. To stretch. To have balance. To pick things up. To exert myself and recover.
And, really, at the end of the day, that is really all I hope to be able to do at 58, 68, 78, 88, 98 and 100.
I just want to be able to do.
As spring creeps up on us, and as the world begins to re-open as COVID-19 slowly begins to recede as an existential threat to humanity, I have to find ways to regain the hold on my physical being.
Maybe there’s another marathon in me. A long bike ride. A crazy endurance race of some kind. A mountain to climb. Perhaps something else I haven’t yet quite put my finger on.
But, to all those middle-age men – and women – who have heard those same voices in their heads as I have heard over the last several months, I want you to know that you’re not alone.
I don’t have a magic pill. A quick weight loss plan. Or, for that matter, some exercise that you can do that suddenly tightens up your butt, tones your abs, makes your clothes not feel like they’re pinching you where you don’t want them to pinch, or a tighten up a face that looks like you may or may not have encountered some uncomfortably high G-forces.
I do have empathy. Because I am right there with you.
And, just like you, I intend to find my way back to a place where I can feel good about how I feel so I can do the things I want to do whenever and wherever it is I want to do them.
And to be able to tell those voices in my head to go to Hell because I like wearing sweatpants all the time, thank you very much!