No one tells you about the side effects of running. Both good and bad, there are certain things that come with running (and other forms of exercise) that come as surprises to those like me who are new to this whole ‘get healthy’ thing. For example, I expected it to take several weeks for there to be any physical evidence that I was losing weight. I did not expect that evidence to first present itself in my bra. I’ve been working out for three months. I’ve lost a pants size (Yea!) and nearly two cup sizes (Huh?).
I didn’t just change my level of activity – I changed my diet. I’ve gone mostly vegetarian, eating red meat only on recovery days. I’m drinking enough water to have to pee every hour on the hour (only a slight exaggeration). I expected this would give me clearer, healthier skin. I did not anticipate the glorious situation that is back acne. My face looks fantastic. My back, between my shoulder blades, is covered in very red, very painful “blemishes”. I have just recently discovered a direct correlation between the pimples and the position of my sports bra.
There are good side effects, too. It’s not all bra shopping and zit cream. I’ve been sick for the past week, so my diet has been put on hiatus. I had pizza for the first time in weeks and could only stomach two slices. I was so full I was nauseated. I met my friend for dinner the other night, and she didn’t recognize me from behind. I have more energy. Most mornings, I’m awake enough at 6:30am to start working on my manuscript. My depression is milder – not gone entirely, but my downs are not so dark, my ups last longer, and I have better balance between them.
My anxiety, however… My anxiety has changed, but not improved. I always thought my depression and my anxiety went hand in hand, but I’m discovering that’s not the case. I’m happier, but I’m still afraid of certain situations. I’m more confident in thought, but not in action. For example, I have a crush on a guy who lives in another state. We’ve never met face to face. He does not know I have a crush on him. The other day, I found out that he will be in my area in about a month. Part of me thinks this is the perfect opportunity to meet him. Another part of me thinks “But I won’t be skinny and beautiful by then!” Part of me is totally okay with the idea of going to the event alone, sitting all day surrounded by hundreds of teenagers and twenty-something males who put my level of nerdiness to shame, just to get a handshake from this guy. Part of me thinks hanging out in the coffee shop nearest the venue is the way to go, increasing the chance of the random meeting. (I call that part “The Stalker” for obvious reasons.) And of course there is a part of me who wants to get on the treadmill RIGHT NOW and do my damnedest to lose all of the weight before he gets here. (“It’s totally doable if we run ten miles a day and stop eating food!”)
Let’s be honest: none of these things are going to happen. Especially since I can’t think about him being here without sweating. But that’s one thing I thought working out would give me that it hasn’t: confidence. It’s more than just body-image issues. It’s parts of my mind being at war. I am at once proud of the progress I’ve made and pissed I’m not stronger, skinnier, better. I berate myself and praise myself in the same breath.
Is it just me? Is it the product of mental illness, or is it a normal human thing? Sometimes it’s so hard to tell.