One afternoon when I was six years old, my mother came home from a shopping trip with new clothes for me and my brother (yes, I have a brother but that needs its own blog). I was much gayer as a kid and excited about things like new clothes. Sadly, adult Randy gets more excited about new episodes of American Horror Story than clothes—okay, still pretty gay. Anyway, she comes home with a bag of shirts. I am thrilled and ravenously tear open the bag like a stoner holding a new bag of chips. And what did I find? Sleeveless shirts that were also cut short so the belly was exposed. It sounds like my mother was trying to dress me like a hooker, but I guess it was a style in the early 80s. My excitement turned to rage. How dare my mother buy me shirts like this when she knows that I’m fat! This was deliberate and cruel punishment and she deserved my wrath. Yeah, seriously. I was 6.
Suffice it to say, that me and body image issues have a long and intimate history. Though I was never fat, I was always convinced that I was. So sure of it, in fact, that exposing any part of my body between knees and elbows does and has always filled me with quiet panic. Thank god for the dark (and pre-unscrewed light bulbs so there’d be no argument about it). Now that I’m 40 and the metabolism has changed, along with increased wine and burger consumption over the past few years, I am now officially and decidedly overweight. It’s actually not in my head this time, it’s in my gut. And biking clothes ain’t baggy. So I’m on this spindly bike, overweight, out of shape and in tight clothes that leaves nothing to the imagination, panting my way up hills, knowing the bike is going to buckle under my extreme weight, and fully convinced that I’m being judged and quietly laughed at.
But here’s the thing—I’m not. The people that I ride with are kind and encouraging and have been out of shape beginners, too. Everyone has suffered from this. But my ego is convinced that I’m the only one; that no one knows this pain but me and everyone is looking at me. Me, me, me. I’ve never been as harsh in my judgments of others as I am with myself. And that’s why, this week, I’m particularly thankful for people. I’m grateful that this out-of-shape introvert has accidentally discovered that he needs social exercise, people around him to get him out of his own internal mean-girls movie and into reality where everyone’s too worried what they look like to worry about anyone else. People that care more about your success than your failures, that can encourage you up a hill because it’s a challenge, because you can do it, and not because the overweight deserve suffering. And I’m grateful for the people who are in this with me and joined me at spin class last night then laughed with me over salads afterward. Thank you.
Lastly, for anyone who followed my 30-day experiment, you might remember a podcast I referred to. There’s some real nice gents who put together a fantastic podcast series called “The One You Feed” all about this constant work to be good and happy. They are fans of the blog and asked me to participate. It was great fun, and now it’s up and downloadable if you’re interested in giving it a listen. I’ve listened to all of them, though, and they’re all inspiring so check it out while you’re biking up some hills.