For 30 years my diet consisted of processed food, junk food, and candy. So much candy. It’s a genetic miracle that my innards didn’t just completely shrivel up and reject life for lack of proper nutrition. And how I stayed a trim 112 pounds that whole time is also a genetic miracle because, the occasional aerobics class aside, the most working out I did was putting quarters into a vending machine. Despite repeated warnings from my elders to the contrary, I definitely thought that I would be a skinny-minny my whole life and not have to worry about it.

Then I turned 30 and the Freshman Fifteen I avoided in undergrad hit me in my first year of graduate school. Now you can say that 15 pounds is not a lot, but everything is relative. That’s a 13.4 percent weight gain and more than enough to make all of my pants burst at the seams. The literally happened to a pair of jeans I had – ripped right up the backside as I bent over to grab another vat of cheese dip from the fridge. I was annoyed and unhappy about the way I looked, but also unwilling to make the changes necessary to go back to being a twig. I was still in denial that I would actually have to try for the first time in my life.

Two years went by and a change in my relationship status provided the impetus to make other changes in my life. Losing the weight proved to be pretty easy. I just cut out all sugar from my diet, and I mean all, had protein for breakfast, salad for lunch, and a healthy serving of vegetables (stay tuned for my V post on April 25) with whatever else I was having for dinner. I amped up my workout routine somewhat as well, mostly by starting running more. I never stepped on a scale and didn’t have any concrete goal in mind other than just looking better. And then one day I realized I was fitting into my old sizes again. Of course, I had long since thrown my old skinny clothes away but that’s OK. Skinny jeans were back in fashion by that point, so I’m sure all of my old clothes just weren’t cool anymore.

Another change in relationship status (I’m sensing a pattern here) and two more years later I had gained the weight back. But here’s the difference. My partner and I work out together several days a week. And on the days we don’t work out together, we make sure that we have each done our separate workout. We hold each other accountable. Six days a week, at least 45 minutes at a time. And we do hard workouts. I used to do primarily cardio, but when we work out together, we do a lot of weight lifting. So even though my weight is the same as it was at my heaviest, I look completely different. You can see it in my face. My face in photos from 2011 is chubby while it’s not at all right now. I have more muscle mass than I’ve ever had, and muscle is heavier than fat. That’s why I’m not concerned with what the scale says or what size my clothes are. All I care about is how I feel and what I see when I look in the mirror. And I feel and look great. I used to have a lot of back pain from a stupid incident in which I jumped off a bridge into a canal to impress a bunch of boys when I was 16. That pain is gone because the muscles in my back are so much stronger now. Exercise has become an addiction, and I like that my appearance is based on more than just the genetic lottery. I have a right to be proud of my body because I work hard for it to be like it is. Sure, it’s not perfect, but Denver bars and restaurants are too amazing to give up. I’ll gladly carry a few extra pounds for weekends full of pork belly and Manhattans. But I’ll also gladly do my penance on the weight bench every day after work during the week.

Curious about what everyone else is writing for the A to Z Blog Challenge? Me too! I’m using a random number generator to select three blogs from my fellow contributors to read each day. Here are today’s discoveries:

All Things Kevyn

Basil and Oil

The High Cost of This Low Living

4 thoughts on “Exercise

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