Friday, May 7, 2010

It won’t kill you.

My father’s feet turned to clay when I was ten years old. Before then, he stood as a giant who protected me from everything. At 6’3” and 250 pounds, Dad held us up so we could reach the stars. But the year I turned ten Dad was diagnosed with diabetes. My invincible hero turned into a man with cautions attached to his life. The strongest caution accompanied food. I learned early in my Dad’s diagnosis that if he didn’t eat he would die. Being hungry would kill him. I internalized this message a bit too well, and never let myself go more than a few hours without food.

A funny thing happened when I was 29. I spent 24 hours without eating. It wasn’t by choice, there were other things on my mind at the time, not to mention doctors and nurses who ordered me to take only water. Not a single bite or drop of juice for 24 hours and somehow I survived. Since then I’ve disproven the lesson from my childhood over and over again. I’ve actually come to appreciate being a little hungry. It makes me savor my food, helps me look forward to it. Surprisingly, if I push away from the table still slightly hungry, I can go three or four hours before I need to eat again. I will admit to getting “hangry,” a word a friend made up meaning so hungry you’re angry at everyone, but I haven’t died yet.

Another unspoken family rule taught me that exercise wasn’t to be trusted. Exercise hurt. If you did too much, you would have a heart attack and die. If you escaped that fate you were sure to end up with injuries: torn ligaments, pulled muscles, and surely, broken bones. My Aunt who biked regularly had to have knee surgery. She became an example of why it was best to just avoid all of that danger.

I started running in my early twenties. I was (and am) super slow. In addition to surely dying, according to family and friends I risk a number of maladies every time I put on my sneakers: joint degeneration, back pain, knee problems, and (a personal favorite) any minute now my uterus is going to fall out. And yet, like being hungry, running hasn’t killed me. I’ve come to believe it won’t. I even own a t-shirt that says “Running won’t kill you. You’ll pass out first.”

Exercise makes me feel better. It clears up migraines before they really start. It soothes my moods and helps me form strong friendships with other runners. It teaches me that I can pick a goal and stick to it, no matter what. At the end of March Trish challenged us to set a goal and stick with it. I chose running every other day in preparation for a local 5K. In the month since then my grandmother died, I’ve dealt with job issues, and I had to revisit some old fears. Still I ran. Every other day, despite weather, exhaustion, and just plain lack of any desire to, I got out there. My 5K was the day after my grandmother’s burial. I ran. …and it didn’t kill me.

What lessons hold you back? If you took them out and looked at them, would they still be true? Are you willing to give up the security of those lessons to be healthy?


When she’s not cooking, buying, or dreaming about food, Rachel Kleinsorge writes steamy paranormal mystery romances. She is currently waiting for the call from her agent, the amazing Carolyn Grayson, while working on her next novel.


Sally Kilpatrick on May 7, 2010 at 6:52 AM said...

Rachel, what a beautifully written post. I usually don't think much about lessons from my family, but your post did remind me that,looking back, I think my parents plied me with coke, sweet treats, and candy because those were all things they couldn't afford growing up.

Fortunately, they didn't have the same taboo about exercising, but I have heard some other folks talk about making your uterus fall out. *sigh*

I think the biggest lesson I have to give up is that celebrations must involve food. I have gained five pounds over the past two weeks because we are "celebrating" my graduation. I'm going to have to start celebrating with a good run. ; )

Michelle Butler on May 7, 2010 at 9:48 AM said...

How inspiring! Congratulations on training for and running your 5K. Which race did you do? A friend of mine ran the one in Frederick a weekend or two ago.

I am sorry about the loss of your grandmother.

Growing up, we always did stuff as a family and would only do stuff we could do as a family. Since my dad hates exercise stuff and my sister has some physical disabilities, we would never incorporate exercise or fitness stuff into our vacations. It took me awhile to see that stuff as something that could be incorporated into a fun day/vacation.

Ironically, my sister has done a much better job of that. She does like to incorporate fitness stuff into her outings. Yes, she still has some disabilities, but she works around them. It can be inspiring.

Michelle Butler on May 7, 2010 at 12:15 PM said...


I loved the ending of this recent article in Newsweek:

But as obesity experts and advocates of increased focus on eating disorders are beginning to understand, the solution to both problems may be the same. "I think there can be a marriage of our desire for a healthy body image and healthy eating in the patients that we serve regardless of our weight," says Peebles. "Getting more active, losing processed foods, changing one's behavior slowly over time…but you have to be zen about wherever your body lands is where it lands."

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