Several months ago I catastrophically injured my left knee. I wish I could brag that it happened while deadlifting my own weight or jumping out of an airplane, but no. I went upstairs to tuck Alex in for bed and hopped down onto his mattress on the floor, obviously forgetting this was the mattress that Dave and I had shared for the last five years of our marriage, which, five years AD, has the thickness of a hammock. With nothing but a soft perm to support it, I hit the floor and my ankle hit my butt with the full force of a 190 pounds. My inner child heard the crunch of a thousand sad trombones.
I knew it was bad.
At the time I'd been running religiously every day for over a month to get back into the practice of it (even On Sundays after everyone left brunch, yo!). I was more than halfway through couch to 5k again and loving every day of it when this happened. So after the initial swelling went down, I kept on running. It didn't hurt during a run, but within a few hours my knee looked like an orange, sometimes even turning a blood orange color from the internal bruising.
I took a month off. Maybe more. It's hard to make yourself do something that hurts. I went to my brother's wedding in California in May. I weighed 200 pounds and still felt like a goddess. Which isn't hard to do when you're wearing a sari that makes you feel like Wonder Woman.
A month earlier I'd had an epiphany that had resurrected my self-esteem:
Diets don't work. None of them. Not even the ones that disguise themselves as "lifestyle changes." I'd happily argue that they never really work for anyone, but I'm going to keep it safe and talk only about me. Every time I have ever gone on a diet that restricted my food intake in ANY way, no matter how much weight I lost to begin with, the end result has always been the same: extreme mental health problems resulting in catastrophic failure, followed by weight gain that left me heavier than my starting weight. This is a statistical fact for me. (And a sad reality for most people who weren't born with skinny brains.)
WHICH IS WHY I HAD GASTRIC BYPASS SURGERY. I looked at the math. It was undeniable. I made my decision accordingly. It was the best decision I have EVER made. No lie. No exaggeration. Do you know what it's like for a fat girl to walk into a restaurant and instead of ordering the salad that she "should" eat, orders whatever the fuck she wants? Because she physically CAN'T overeat?
It was FREEDOM. And in hindsight I realize that I've only lost weight successfully three times in my life, none of which involved any kind of dietary restriction: when I took PhenFen, during the first year after my surgery when I had no appetite, and when I was suffering from such crippling anxiety that I could barely tolerate food and the only thing that helped was running long distances.
So here I was FOR TWO YEARS complaining about not being able to lose weight and wondering what the fuck I was doing wrong? Why was I not successful? Why did I feel like a constant irredeemable failure every day with every food decision I made, good OR bad? Why did I expect a troll every time I looked in the mirror? Why was I obsessed with every morsel I put in my facehole instead of using this precious brain to think about more important things (ie: EVERY. OTHER. FUCKING. THING.)?
DUH! I went on a DIET. I went on LOTS of them. I'd been chasing the Holy Grail of that precious size six I was two years ago. No wonder I was up 15 pounds from my "normal" post-surgery weight! Why did I think I could do the same thing I've done HUNDREDS of times and expect a different result?
Because I forgot.
I forgot that it doesn't matter at all. None of it matters. The number on the scale is exactly like the number in my bank account - it's make-believe. It's fictional.
The number in the back of my dress is a currency I can't spend on anything that matters.
The stupidest thing is that when I risked my life for this shit over twelve years ago and had a surgeon cut up my intestines, I promised myself one thing: that I'd never go on a diet again. I had only two goals: stay under 200 pounds and run at least one 8-minute mile. MISSIONS ACCOMPLISHED, bish!
So I basically figured out that I was DONE. I wasn't breaking that promise again. I was going to eat whatever I wanted and weigh whatever I weighed.
And I was going to run. I would run and run and run. Goddess help me, I was going to fucking RUN.
When I got back from California, I scheduled an hour session with a personal trainer at my closest crossfit gym. I was SO excited. I loved every minute of it. I was stronger than I thought I was. She remarked at my form while I did squat after squat while learning to hold a barbell straight. Nothing hurt! I was healed! I felt like I'd finally found my THING, my new tribe. And this gym held daily classes that lined up perfectly with my lunch breaks! I was going to get strong and I was going to use that strength to run again without pain or swelling.
The next day I woke up with a coconut for a knee. I could barely walk. Every other muscle was that kind of delicious sore you get after running over ten miles or breaking a personal record. Every OTHER muscle was happy.
But my knee was done. Patrick and I were in the process of moving into the basement of our house that week and when I got FURIOUS with the layout of IKEA because I had to walk an additional 20 feet to get to an elevator, I knew it was over. I couldn't go down even a single flight of stairs without yelping.
I finally called OHSU and saw a sports doctor. She thought maybe I'd torn my ACL. Fixable, I thought!
The results were so much worse. It turns out I crunched my cartilage in four different places around my knee. I can't read an MRI to save my life, but I can tell you what jack-o-lantern teeth look like on a computer screen and that's what I saw. Sadly, cartilage isn't fixable. Our bodies don't make it and science doesn't have a replacement for it. The swelling is a permanent fixture for me because I'm allergic to NSAIDS. I can't take any kind of anti-inflammatory.
The doctor let me down slowly. "Instead of talking about your ability to run or do sports or crossfit, we need to start thinking about longevity." When I asked her if I could ever run again, she hesitated, presumably because she could tell I was going to burst into tears, and said, "I wouldn't say you CAN'T run, but I can't say you should. It'll be your call." What she DID say was that the only way I should ever consider running again is to get in such excellent shape that my other muscles overcompensate for my knee.
No running. No weightlifting. No high impact sports. DEFINITELY no trail running. No activity that causes my knee to bend at a greater than 90 degree angle. Crossfit NEVER.
When I asked what I COULD do, she said the worst words any fat girl can ever hear. She said it politely and she referred to studies, so I respected the advice, but she still said it: "You can lose weight."
I waited till I got to the car to start sobbing. Here I'd FINALLY decided that my body size was okay and that all I needed was fitness and then the doctor told me my body size was the thing inhibiting my fitness.
I took it seriously. I'm never going to lose weight to look pretty or be some patriarchally-approved size, but god damn, I love running. That very day I stopped eating carbohydrates. I gave up sugar. I was perfect for 45 days straight. I never cheated once and only lost seven pounds, five of which were during the first week.
On our anniversary, I let myself have a day off. I ate a single piece of sourdough toast with my Benedict breakfast, had a 6" Subway sandwich for lunch and then a single square inch of pita bread with my hummus and vegetables for dinner.
I gained back half the weight it had taken me a month and a half to lose in less than 24-hours.
I am SO pissed off at my body, you guys. SO FUCKING ANGRY. I'm doing ALL THE THINGS. Everything that usually works for me. My diet is basically every variation of fresh vegetables and grilled chicken that you could possibly imagine. I make everything from scratch. I eat like a goddess!
But it's hard to work out because every time I do my knee swells up twice its size. My right hip actually hurts more than my knee at this point because it's overcompensating for the weakness. Not to mention that I'm working ten hour days on my feet because it's our busy season. When I get home at night all I can do is put my feet up and complain.
Everything hurts. I feel like I've aged three decades in six months. I have less energy than I did at 300 pounds and I can only have sex in two positions. My goal is to buy myself a good bicycle and use that to work up to my former fitness level. Maybe I'll even start commuting to work. I only wish the idea of it wasn't so dastardly overwhelming.
We went to Oregon Country Faire and camped for five nights last weekend. I limped through it all because it is the most fun I get to have all year long. Patrick's fitbit says we averaged about five miles a day. I used to be able to run that with my hands tied behind my back; now just walking it left me bedraggled and hopelessly swollen.