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Three years ago this month, I decided I was finally going to take weight loss and fitness seriously. I had managed to gain more than 100 pounds in the few years prior to that, and I wanted it gone. Two years ago this month, it was. The year I spent working on my health and fitness was transformative for me in more than the obvious ways. Today I look incredibly different from the way I did three years ago. People who met me during the fat years and haven’t seen me recently struggle to recognize me without my many former chins. I take a good bit of delight in the awkwardness this causes, I have to admit.
As you’d expect, life has changed in a lot of practical ways: I frequent the farmers’ market more often than the drive-thru; I get up early to go running (and go to bed early, too); I make room in my budget for athletic gear and race registrations. I know the meaning and purpose of Body Glide, fartleks and hill repeats. I buy quinoa, flax seed and tempeh. I know, I know. This all sounds so cool it’s probably intimidating. Don’t fret, though: you too can become a running and nutrition nerd with nothing more than a subscription to Runner’s World and a few interesting food blogs.
More importantly, I also feel different. I am still the same person in most of the important ways (still a reader and writer, a dog lover, a fan of terrible romantic comedies, an unrepentant lover of bourbon and French fries), but these days I am simply more myself. I am sure of who I am and who I want to be. I am confident in my ability to take on new challenges in all corners of life. If I could go from not running at all to training for and finishing a marathon, surely I can also apply for a promotion at work, learn a new craft, say “yes” to the opportunity to, for example, write a guest post here.
A lot of the time, I tend to forget about the fat version of me who existed for those few years when I was finishing school and starting my first full-time job. She was an anomaly, I tell myself, a chubby blip on the otherwise lean line of my life. But when I do think of her, I try to find a way to be grateful for her. After all, she was the one who decided to change her life. She was the one who trained for and ran that first 5K, even knowing she’d be one of the slowest and biggest competitors out there. If I’d never lived those years in her body (if her body hadn’t also been my body), would I have come to appreciate who I am today in the same way?
It’s been two years since I hit my weight-loss goal, and I’ve maintained successfully since then due in large part to this: I’ve found a sport that I love and look forward to doing as often as my tight IT bands and dodgy grandma hip will allow. Exercising, running especially, has helped me simply be happier. The mood elevators that come along with running are absolutely no myth. It keeps me feeling good physically and emotionally. For that reason, I feel sure I’ll never give it up. I want to be like those awesome veteran runners who still kick the marathon’s butt well into their sixties and seventies.
I know I’ll keep eating well, too. I love that the food I eat doesn’t make me feel awful or sluggish or greasy the way my fast-food diet of yore did. While I do like to indulge in the aforementioned French fries (and let’s not forget pizza, burritos, cupcakes and adult beverages), I just work these high-calorie foods into my plan and keep it reasonable. I know when I’m training for a long-distance event and putting more miles on my shoes, I will naturally wind up eating more. When I’m running less, I eat less.
My approach to maintenance is pretty simple: During the year I spent losing weight and getting fit, I found a life that just works for me. And I plan to keep on living it as long as I can. —Kate Olsen
Kate Olsen is a college English lecturer, an amateur photographer and a lover of food and drink. She lives in Alabama, where she has come to take a strange pleasure in running in the heat and humidity of summer. She blogs at http://kateo.org and tweets at @kateodotorg.