Their Version of Success; My Version of Success

When I first started swimming, I never thought that in a month, I'd swim a mile. And that I'd be able to do it in roughly the same amount of time it initially took me to swim a half mile. Ever since I've been doing this, I feel, for lack of a more elaborate word, happy. I have my old glide back. My body feels like a well-fitting glove. And even on the days when I'm positive I've sapped the last of my energy, I find I have something left to give.

Still, people will continue to measure my success with their own benchmarks, the most common of which is weight. It's the question I hear most often. "Wow! You're doing great! So how much weight have you lost??"

I tell them I don't know. I tell them I don't care. I tell them I'm certainly not dieting, and that I deprive myself of very little. That while I'm burning massive amounts of calories, I'm also replacing a good number of them as well. If I didn't do that, I certainly wouldn't be sustaining this rigorous exercise routine. And I certainly wouldn't have the enthusiasm for it that I do. There's nothing exciting or fulfilling about controlled starvation. And there's certainly nothing sustainable about it. I've learned that over many years of dieting, so I just don't do it anymore. I killed a promising kickboxing hobby that way--by overwhelming myself with a strict eating plan in addition to a hardcore fitness regimen, and when I failed at one thing (the diet), I quit the other. I'm certainly not going to start that shit with swimming.

What has been fulfilling about this experience is that I've been giving my body the attention and nourishment it deserves, by keeping it active and feeding it well. This has been an entirely positive experience for me. So positive, in fact, that I couldn't imagine quitting. I dream of the water. I sigh when I enter it. By focusing on health rather than merely weight, I've found the way to do something for the love of it. Oh sure, there have been some days when I'm just not all that into it, but every swim ends the same way: with gratitude.

But people are still curious what sort of changes my body is undergoing. And though I haven't made that the centerpiece of my fitness efforts, I can't help but take a little satisfaction over some of the differences in my appearance over the last couple months. I've lost at least eight inches off my waist and hips/ass. My arms are thinning out, with muscles becoming a bit more prominent, especially in the shoulder area. My thighs don't rub together as much as they were. My spare tire in the upper abdominal area is visibly shrinking. My brand new bathing suit is getting baggier by the day. I'll probably need another one by my birthday in October. My knees no longer hurt. I'm noticing one of my chins is shrinking.

So yes, my body is transforming as it adapts to the new physical routine. It's doing what it's supposed to be doing, and I'm just letting it happen. It's liberating not to think about it in terms of inches or pounds or pants sizes or whatever. I'm just relishing the endorphin rush. The certainty that when I step into that pool, I'm motherfucking Wonder Woman, and when I step out of it, I'm motherfucking Wonder Woman after an epic brawl with an aqua monster.

As for my total weight loss after six weeks or so of regular lap swimming? 5 pounds. That's it. 5 pounds. If I were merely dieting (without the rigorous exercise), I'd have lost twice as much weight by now, and for some reason, I'd have a perverse feeling of accomplishment at that. "Yay, I successfully deprived my body of calories! Sure, I'm hungry all the time and I have to constantly deny myself food because I'd go over my Points or run out of Jenny Craig food or that scary woman from Biggest Loser will crush my windpipe. And I'm pretty sure that, like a rubber band that's been stretched far enough, I'll eventually snap back and do what my body was programmed to do: eat and store calories. And I'm sure I'd be twenty pounds heavier in six months and then gain even more weight because of the sense of defeat and inertia that a failed diet always instills in me. But yay me! Pass the celery and grapefruits!"

So no, I don't care about the pounds. I don't count calories. I use common sense. Most of the time. The scale is tucked away under my bathroom counter behind the toilet paper and cleaners. I only pulled it out that once, before sitting down to write this blog. It told its story, and I quietly put it away, my emotions neutral. That piece of tempered glass no longer has the power to make or break my day. Why should it, when my eyes, my clothes, my rock-hard delts, and my overall well-being tell me that I'm just fine, thankyouverymuch?

If I could go through the rest of my life feeling this way and never lose another pound, I'd be happy. I don't have time for that kind of self-torture anymore. What's the point, when I already know with this saggy, fat and flabby body of mine, I'm capable of remarkable things? There are more milestones I look forward to crushing, and crush them I will. And I'll happily jiggle while I'm doing it.


  1. as one HAES/FA convert to another, I say, BRAVO!

  2. Bravo, indeed!! Allison, you are truly one of my heroes.