Fit, not Fat: How to Lose 20 Pounds in 20 Minutes

weightgraphic2Last summer, I lost 20 pounds in less than 20 minutes, and have kept it off without changing my diet or exercise habits. Read on to see if my free, easy, transformative system might work for you. Or just click on the flow-chart.
I have disliked my short, sturdy body as long as I can remember. Like so many other people of completely healthy weight, I have wasted more time than I care to admit moping in front of mirrors, sucking in, and berating myself for not fitting into clothes I wore in high school.

When thin, I wanted to be skinny. When trim, I mourned the loss of thin. Now, softer and rounder with middle-ish age, I want to shrink back to trim. I’ve “ballooned” from a size 4 to 8 in twenty years, feeling fat all along. I attribute about 93% of those ridiculous, unfounded feelings to screwed up cultural norms,* and 7% to being 5′ 1″. (Minor fluctuations in weight really do make a difference in how I look and feel, and they affect my athletic endeavors, such as they are.)

When I furtively buy magazines that promise dropping three dress sizes in three weeks, I always start at the back for inspiring stories of weight loss. It’s not so much their strategies that interest me; at the core, most are versions of calories in and out. I don’t need a magazine to tell me to cut down on sweets and ramp up the strength training. What intrigues me is that they often pinpoint a moment—big or small—that sparked a sustained transformation. I saw myself in a friend’s wedding picture. I got out of breath chasing my kids around. My dad died young of a heart attack.

Before the Catalyzing Moment, my first thought about this pic would be “I am so fat!” Now I think: “How cool is it that we can ride 44 miles with our** kids–and they still love us! Look at those smiles. What a great trip.”
Before the Catalyzing Moment, my first thought about this pic would be “I am so fat!” Now I think: “How cool is it that we can ride 44 miles with our** kids–and they still love us! Look at those smiles. What a great trip.”

My Catalyzing Moment happened this August, while on a muggy, 12 mile run with friends, during our annual takeover of Gary, Indiana’s Miller Beach. The overgrown limestone trail, once a railroad, was flanked by wildflowers, scrubby trees, and a slow river clotted with beaver dams. It was a welcome change from Chicago’s hard sidewalks and loud streets, but also a melancholy echo of Gary’s proud industrial past. Our lungs burned and legs churned in sync as we chased the ghosts of the Iron Horses that built both cities. I felt strong, and full of gratitude for the companionship and scenery.

Then, a familiar refrain interrupted. “I am fat, ugly, and a failure.” The words pounded with our footfalls, and I feared the moment would be lost in a squall of negativity. But something amazing happened. Other inner voices pushed back.

One wailed: “Why? Why are you *still* buzzing in my ear???!!!!  Pleeeease leave me alone!”

One cursed with anger: “For fuck’s sake! Right now?! In this beautiful place with these beautiful people??!  Shut up and get out!”

But the best voice was firm and logical: “I am not fat, I am fit. I am not ugly, I am loved. I am not a failure, I am alive.” Somehow that mantra melted 20 pounds of heavy thoughts by the time we wrapped up the run.

A new take on the before/after weight loss genre. Left: before a summer run, simulating the “I hate my body” feelings of the past. Right: a sweaty hour later, feeling pretty damn good about myself. Fit, not fat.***

I had tried before to stop obsessing about my weight, but ever since that afternoon, that mantra–fit, not fat–has kept the body-hating thoughts at bay. “Oh well, who cares” I declare when catching a reflection of three rolls of belly-smush while leaning over my handlebars. “Not the end of the world” I shrug when a favorite skirt won’t zip. “Behold these curves!” I whistle when donning a body-hugging dress I would never have worn before I started ignoring my “extra” 20 pounds.

Because, should I really call them extra? Does a 42 year old need to weigh the same as she did 20 years ago? Should someone with bi-polar disorder stop taking life-saving medication that contributes a bit to the chub? Should someone concerned about social justice waste time concerned with just looks? I eat well, can run over an hour, and can bicycle all day. I am not overweight, have never been.  I am currently a little pudgier than I would like, but until I am ready to take sustained, healthy action to get leaner and stronger, I refuse to waste time and mind worrying about my m(ass). According to a recent survey, 41 of my friends unanimously agree. ****

weightypollSure, I would like to slim down. It would help running performance, and I am not ready to give up the size 6 jeans that are my favorite, hard to find, shade of brick red. It would also be irresponsible to ignore the tight correlation to date between increasing years and numbers on the scale. Halting, let alone reversing, the trend is only going to get tougher. And  I have a wicked sweet tooth that can attack a pan of brownies in a day–one small “just one more” piece at a time. Regardless of weight, that’s just not healthy. But I am not doing anything about it today. Soon, but not today.

I just checked the mirror. The sweater and other layers make me feel like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. “At least I am warm!” And my butt looks cute, too. Fit, not fat.

marshmallow-man-ghostbusters-terri-hardin*Borrowing from my friend, Jessica: “Part of the struggle is that we have competing feelings. On the one hand we want to conform to a certain body ideal, so pervasive in media and culture. No matter how media savvy we are, and no matter how much we reject it intellectually, this ideal exerts a powerful influence, right? And on the other hand, we feel that it’s lame and shallow to care about this. We resent caring about it. We *know* that it doesn’t matter, and yet it matters.  That’s some cognitive dissonance.”

**Our is meant here in the collective sense. That’s my friend Scott, not my hubby.  But this gives me a chance to plug his wife’s awesome blog. Clare Fauke is my favorite contemporary blogger.

***I feel weird about all these “look at meeeeee photos.” But since this is a post about body image, I hope folks understand.

****I also asked the even sillier question: Do you think I am fat? I thought 100% would say no, but three stinkers said yes. I stick my tongue out at them and say:

Boone County was an important influence on my childhood years. I think I wrote about it in a college essay. And I still want Milo's hair style.

2 thoughts on “Fit, not Fat: How to Lose 20 Pounds in 20 Minutes

  1. Dang. Just lost the lengthy reply I wrote to this. Short recap- you look fabulous, and I have always thought of you as a fitness champ who could run literal circles around me. Fat and Gin are two words that I do not associate… Unless perhaps considering the consequence of consuming too many olive-laden martinis to my own oft expanding midsection. 😉

  2. The only time I put “fat” and “gin” in the same sentence, it’s in conjunction with “olives” and “vermouth”, and relates to how I added inches to my midriff last winter (that, and many boxes of pasta). Girl, you are strong and could run circles around most of us. Glad you convinced your brain to see what the rest of us do!

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