Taunted as a Chubby Kid
From grade school to the day I graduated from college, I was a chubby nerd and an easy target. My parents were both exceptionally good cooks — my dad owned a restaurant and my mom won almost every cooking contest she entered. I was a chubby kid because I really liked food. And after broken ankles and playground taunts — at a bus stop, I was once unfavorably compared to a whale by one of the neighbor kids — I stuck with reading and practicing the piano and roller skating to the library. I don’t know how many gym classes I missed because I was “sick” or “forgot” my gym clothes.
Even though I avoided sports, I secretly admired the athletic kids. They walked taller than the rest of us. When I was in 10th grade, my dad took me to Annapolis to see the Navy band play a concert, and for about three weeks, I was determined to get in shape so I could apply to the Naval Academy. I abandoned that dream because I was incapable of doing push-ups and sit-ups (and I was too embarrassed and overwhelmed to ask for help).
When I graduated from college, I started an exercise program and adopted a “healthy” diet (the old-fashioned healthy: low-fat, high-carb). I became a certified aerobics instructor and was bitten by the triathlon bug. I did the Danskin and an Olympic distance race, and in 1999, I finished the Wildflower Triathlon. I was the very last person to cross the finish line; I’d missed the cut-off for the run, but was too stubborn to give up. My total time was somewhere in the neighborhood of 9-and-a-half hours. When I stopped, the race clock had been off for hours.
|I was still haunted by a deep desire to be different than I was. To be thin. To feel confident. To break the cycle of thinking of food — and my behavior — as “good” and “bad.” It was my habit to celebrate and to grieve and to stress out and to relax with food. Although I worked out regularly, I didn’t FEEL strong, inside or out. I had insomnia and allergies and stomach aches. My body didn’t feel like it belonged to me.|
Then I found Crossfit and Paleo
Thanks to Melissa and Dallas of Whole9, I dumped grains and dairy, did a series of Whole30 cleanups, committed to eight hours of sleep EVERY NIGHT, and eventually, made friends with food and my body. I found CrossFit and fell in love with barbell training and man-makers and sprints and (terrifying) handstands and double-unders and callouses on my hands and sweat angels on the floor. Pushing hard in a workout and really facing myself – fear, hesitation, bravado, even silliness – feels like freedom.
Now I know when and how often I can indulge in non-paleo foods, and I enjoy those once-in-a-while treats like never before. The food tastes a lot better when it’s savored and not followed by a chaser of self-recrimination. I finally know how to truly celebrate on occasion while I live clean and healthy the rest of the time. I finally feel “normal.” Only I suspect my normal is better than most peoples’.
One more obstacle – only half a thyroid, and it doesn’t work.
In 2009, right about the time I was hitting my goal weight and feeling on top of the world, I learned I had a nodule on my thyroid. The risk of cancer meant I had to have it removed, along with a little more than half of my thyroid. The half-thyroid hung on for a few months, then it crapped out. I take Synthroid and Cytomel, and mostly, it’s not too bad. But it was a long road to getting my doseage right, and sometimes, I still feel fatigued. If you’re curious about thyroid issues or are battling a naughty thyroid yourself, you can read all about my thyroid experiences.
Now I have excellent habits 95% of the time.
I CrossFit and run and lift heavy stuff. I eat clean. I make music. I read. I write. I cook.
And sometimes, I’m a slug who indulges in corn-based chip products, buttered popcorn, and an icy-cold glass of Prosecco. I might also occasionally sip on a glass of Ouzo and eat whipped cream. (And yes, that 95% listed so brazenly above is accurate; I did the math because I’m THAT dorky.)
I’m not anywhere near done yet.
I’m pleased with my progress, and I accept that my stems, while muscular and strong, are quite short. And I still want to be stronger, faster, leaner, and more bad-ass. Thankfully, I know I have the tools to do that. I no longer feel like there’s something different about the way my body works – that it’s a big mystery. I understand what I need to do to thrive, and I’m confident that I’ll reach whatever goals I set for myself
Melissa Joulwan is:
– The beauty and brains behind ‘The Clothes Make the Girl‘.
– Author of ‘Well Fed‘ Paleo Recipe Book.
– A retired roller girl, from the original flat track roller derby in Austin.
– A sucker for the perfect little black dress and stompy black boots.