The (Out of) Shape of Things: Part II

September 6, 2009 at 6:32 pm 1 comment

Lester Burnham: (running astride fit neighbors) I figured you guys might be able to give me some pointers. I need to shape up. Fast.

Jim Olmeyer: Are you just looking to lose weight, or do you want increased strength and flexibility as well?

Lester: I want to look good naked!

-from American Beauty

When I made the decision to stop “running seriously” three years ago, I realized that I had only been running for one purpose for too long. I asked myself, “If your body were to look the same whether you ran or not, would you still run regularly?” An unequivocal “no” resounded through my disturbed mind. I put my shoes into my closet and laced them up twice a week at most.

I have always conflated my body image into my sexual identity. The unhealthy marriage was consummated in 1995 when I hit puberty. I felt extremely uncomfortable in my own skin. To make a long story short, I made my period go away. The thought of developing breasts and hips absolutely terrified me, so I started exercising and virtually stopped eating. A year later, running saved my life. I felt entitled to eat again, and I gained self-confidence from excelling at something other than schoolwork (Athlete” sounded better than “bookworm.”).

“Bootylicious” topped the charts the summer before my senior year in high school. Its sexy, charismatic message failed to reach me.

Fast forward two years.

Competing in collegiate sports put me in the best physical shape of my life, but I managed to keep subtle “lady lumps” throughout the years of intense training. Never before had I received so much attention from the opposite sex. I felt at once exhilarated and horrified. After three progressively problematic incidents, I started forcing myself to throw up. My experiences and surroundings seemed to convey to me that my body and my desires had provoked predatory behavior: My burgeoning sexuality could and would be used against me. When my breasts and hips refused to disappear, I tried to “act like a man.” I felt more attracted to women than ever before and feigned apathy toward “catching feelings.” I became aggressive, power hungry, and, occasionally, hateful. None of these pretenses worked, of course, and I started to fear the monster I was becoming.

I quit bulimia cold turkey when I left New Haven. My distance runs became fewer and occurred further between. I gained a nominal amount of weight and an immense amount of self-respect. I now run mostly to feel good. Looking good is just a fringe benefit.

 See also “The (Out of) Shape of Things”

Entry filed under: Health and Beauty, Sexuality. Tags: , , , , .

Excerpt from “Those Bright College Years” A Message from Aunt Kathy

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. aannw85  |  December 1, 2011 at 6:05 am

    That is truly remarkable. I really understand what you are saying and for some reason it spoke to me in a big way. Thanks. (:

    Like

    Reply

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