I am not 100% sure about this, but I think that the calorie restrictions from my diet are causing starvation-related brain damage, because for the last few days I have been seriously entertaining the notion of joining a gym.
And that, Gentle Readers, is CRAZY TALK.
I'll be the first person to tell you that a good 50% of the reason why I look like I do is because I am pretty much violently opposed to exercise of any sort. I hate sweating. It's gross, stinky, and there's really no way to look dignified while you're doing it -- at least, there isn't for me.
Which is funny, because literally half a lifetime ago, I was an athlete. Not exactly a world-class one, hardly even decent, but passable most days. My sport of choice? Swimming. Specifically, distance swimming. I used to swim the 500-yard race for my high school team, and I trained for the mile (1500m) event for the Y.
And let me tell you something: even you are not a particularly good distance swimmer, you train just the same as everyone else. You swim many, many miles a week, up and down the pool, over and over again, flip turn after flip turn, there and back again, lather rinse repeat, every day, sometimes twice, for two or more hours at a time. When I was in the most "intense" part of my training, I was swimming anywhere between 3-4 miles a day, and about 12-15 miles a week.
I know people who are in pretty darned good shape who don't RUN that much every week.
But that was the rub, of course. Swimming is a pretty solitary sport, and practices get boring and lonely fast. I would say that's doubly true when you train for long races. You get your program for the day and you do it, and while you're in a lane with other swimmers, you don't really interact with them much. There isn't time. You do your sets and you take your 45 seconds between 100's and during that 45 seconds you're trying to catch your breath. Everybody is competition, trying to beat you, to take your place on the leaderboard. You don't socialize, even if you wanted to. Your hips and knees and shoulders are jello and your brain turns to mush and all you want to do is be done so you can get out of the pool and throw up and then die on the floor in the locker room. Only to start all over again the next day.
I was not a good enough swimmer to earn a swimming scholarship, so when I got to college and found myself not on a team for a change, I allowed myself to enjoy the lack of routine. I didn't have to arrange my classes around a practice schedule. I kept saying that I would get in the pool to get some exercise, once I got settled in. Once I got a handle on all my classwork. Once I made a few more friends. Once I knew what my major was going to be. Once I memorized the calendar of free movies and plays and parties. Once I felt like I needed some exercise.
That day never came. I spent four years at Syracuse, and I never once saw the inside of the natatorium. I am not entirely sure that Syracuse actually has one.
Fast-forward 18 years in the future, to now -- and here we are. In the last half of my life, I have joined a gym three different times. Each time, I went a handful of times, and then got bored with the routine and frustrated with the changes I needed to make to my schedule. I don't like to be put out. I don't like to sacrifice. My time is mine, and I want to spend it doing something fun. Like watching "Phineas & Ferb." Or putting off doing laundry. Or bathing the cats.
Now I'm working really hard at losing weight. It's true what they say: it doesn't get any easier when you get older. But try telling that to any 18-year-old, and they'll laugh in your face. That's what I did when people tried to warn me. My "freshman 15" was more like a "freshman 50," what with stopping swimming and eating nothing but carbs in the dining hall and living for several semesters on ramen noodles, Pringles, microwave popcorn, and Mountain Dew. Since my freshman year, I've added another 50 pounds, and then some. Eighteen years of excess weight. And I want to lose that weight by next Labor Day.
Thus far, I've been doing fine with the calorie restrictions that my Lose It plan are setting for me, but I'm starting to feel like I should do more. I'm down more than a pant size, but not quite two, which is pretty awesome -- people are starting to notice. But instead of feeling better about myself by degrees, I am starting to get more critical. Around my middle, where my chunk used to be smooth and solid, I am looking lumpy and jiggly. Smaller, but jigglier. I am starting to feel self-conscious about my flappy old-lady chicken arms. If I want to attempt to put on a bikini next summer (and in the back of my mind, this is one of my goals), then I am going to have to do more than starve.
So a gym it is, then, right? But how can I justify the expense when my husband is still out of work? The local Y costs more than $80 a month for a family plan, and more than $50 if it's just me. That's a really lot of money, especially because I'd only be using the pool and the weight room. They have eleventy million different classes, all kinds of stuff I'd love to do, but everything is at 9:30 in the morning on a Tuesday, and I can't leave work for a bellydance fitness class. I was thinking about a gym chain with locations right near home and on my way to and from work, with a pool and a gym and conveniently-scheduled yoga and Pilates classes, and that's only $9 a week. But I've seen the people coming in and out of that gym, and they're already young and fit and out of my league, and I don't want to be judged by strangers in bicycle shorts.
Plus, I really, really hate exercise. Really hate it. I don't want to do it. I know I should, because it's only a matter of time before I am down to only 1,200 calories a day, and nobody wants to live like that, plus I don't want to be thin but unfit. I want to look good. I want to have nice toned arms and strong legs and a cute booty. I'll never have six-pack abs and I'll probably always have a little pooch in the tummy, but I want to be flexible. And confident. Which I've really never been in my entire adult life.
But mostly, I want to be able to eat key lime pie without eating nothing but carrots for three days.