So, here I am. The Chubby Girl Cyclist. In the past year I started this journey, and now in an effort to not make overly-emotional posts about cycling on facebook, I’ve turned here, to a blog. Like every other millennial on the planet.
I swear I’m not always this maudlin, I’m just weirdly self-conscious when I write.
So, cycling. The name of the game. The green way to commute. The reason my sit-bones are screaming at me. No, really. I’m pretty sure my sit-bones haven’t not hurt in a vague way for about 6 months. Now, however, they’re screaming. And that’s because I, a chubby girl of a weight I’d rather not disclose, biked 24 miles yesterday (more, if you count the periods my boyfriend and I spent lost).
I’m loathe to go into my complicated journey with weight, partially because it’s not a new story. I’m a girl. I wasn’t that chubby as a kid, but I was a bit chunkier than my friends. Looking back on it, it was seriously a difference in body type, at least up to a certain age. However, despite being a ‘normal’ sized kid (we’ll get into my feelings about weight and supposed ‘normality’ at a later date) I remember always feeling self-conscious and being distinctly aware that other people were thinner than I was.
I felt this way before I was six.
And the weird thing about being afraid of being fatter, is a lot of the time, it makes you fatter. I ate because I was scared. I ate because I was sad. I ate because it made me happy, and then of course, I became the thing I was afraid of being: chubby.
This blog is not (solely) about my weight issues. But there’s one painful story I feel like I have to share. When I was in high school, I had a crush on a boy. I was 15 or 16, I don’t totally remember. I’d gained some weight over the summer, which I always did, and he turned me down when I asked him out. I instantly became convinced that it was because I was too fat, which I now think is hilarious, because I was thinner then than I am now. My weight had yoyo’d before, but I was determined to change that. I went on a crazy intense diet, I did a bunch of cardio, and I lost forty pounds in four months. I ended up getting the boy, and we dated for a month, because it was high school and high school is stupid. We had very little in common, and my radical weight loss did nothing for my self-esteem.
I was, at this point, obsessed with numbers. Certain numbers were ‘good’ numbers, while others were ‘bad.’ I became obsessed with the idea that I could only weigh numbers that ended in zeros or fives, and if I went under, I had to go down to the next number, not up to the previous. For example, at one point I weighed 126 pounds, and felt desperately that I had to get down to 125, but I overshot and went to 124, which then meant that I had to go down to 120.
While I never got unhealthily thin, a good friend of mine recognized my obsessive behavior, and after a harsh talking to, I started to relax my feelings about numbers and food. And I ended up gaining back the weight, and then some. The problem was, I never learned how to change my life, I only learned how to think about numbers and pant-sizes and how my collar bones looked. I ignored the fact that I was tired all the time, and that I couldn’t go out with my friends without compulsively checking the menu for ‘good’ foods.
Ten years later, I am heavier than ever and I have finally realized that food is neither morally good or bad, and in fact the idea of ‘good’ foods and ‘bad’ foods is a gross one that only encourages shame and stigma. Food is fuel, food is enjoyment, food is something you put in your mouth and chew and you like it or dislike it but it’s not good or bad.
I really didn’t want to talk about my weight so much, but part of the reason I am starting this blog is to cope with all the feelings that becoming physically active has stirred up in me. Like food, they are not morally good or morally bad. But they are something that I’m going to write about.
When I first wobbled onto a bike in the local park by my house, children laughed. Maybe they didn’t but I think I’ve mentioned that I’m a big paranoid mess of paralyzing self-consciousness sometimes. I’d ridden a bike briefly as a kid, but I wasn’t good at it, so I stopped, which the more I think about it is kind of a pattern in my life. There are certain things I naturally excelled at, and other things I didn’t. My boyfriend is a big cyclist, and I was attempting to take up cycling because it was important to him, and so therefore should be something I could at least struggle through for a day. I cried (I’m a big cryer, you’ll learn this about me), and I hated it. I swore I would never get back on again. But I did, and then I did again, and even after I landed face first going downhill on the central park loop and totally busted my face open, I got on again.
What. Was. Happening to me?
I laughed at all the douchey cyclists on West Side Bike Path, dressed like they were training for the Tour de France. I chuckled at my boyfriend’s ‘padded panties’ as I call them, until I got a pair of chamois of my own and discovered they were a god send for sit-bone and nether region comfort.
And yesterday? Yesterday I biked 24 miles for the first time, and it nearly killed me. My legs today feel like jelly, but I have never felt more proud of myself. For the first time in my life I am focusing on being fit, not thin, and strong, not skinny. I see my legs getting stronger. I feel my stamina increasing, and although I still think about my weight, I don’t see it as a sign of failure anymore. 24 miles in a day when I could barely stay on the bike a few months ago isn’t failure.
I am a chubby girl cyclist, and my journey has only just begun.
Ps. I promise to talk more about…actual cycling next time. Thanks for reading!