willendorfchapter ten: hitting the wall
by byron ballard
There came a point where everyone was sayingyouve lost more
weight! Wow! and I hadnt lost an ounce. I spent an entire month
losing, gaining and re-losing the same four pounds. Up Id go,
down Id go. No matter what I ate or didnt eat. No matter
how much I exercised or didnt exercise. The same four pounds.
I had the
optimistic fantasy that by working out I was rearranging fat and adding
muscle, which, as all fat people know, weighs more than fat. Wasnt
that some sort of muscle there on the side of my leg? Wasnt that
pendulous flesh under my upper arms slightly less pendulous than it
used to be? Hmmm. I could fool myself into thinking I was firming up
but the scale didnt lie. Those four pounds were stopping me in
I had hit the wall. And let me tell you, it sucks.
I tried fewer calories and more exercise. My weight actually went up.
I was told that for the amount of exercise I was getting I needed to
up my caloric intake. Wait a minuteyou as my doctor are telling
me to eat more? How can this be possible? She laughed at me, as she
often does. Try it. See what happens. I did. I ate 200 additional calories
that day and the next day I noticed a slight change in weight. Within
a week Id lost a couple of pounds.
Now Im yo-yoing again. Im down from where I was before but
the yo-yo continues. I have to come to terms with the fact that what
was once steady and relatively easy is now less regular and harder.
Since my goal was not specific amounts of weight loss, it is not traumatic
so much as annoying.
But I decided to practice what Ive been preaching and listen to
my body. I went down to my favorite river park and took a walk, ending
at a wooden overlook with a little bench. I leaned over the railing
and stared at the river and I asked my body what was up. No, I didnt
do it aloud. I took some deep breaths, spoke the Cherokee name of the
river and listened.
I heard crows and I heard wind in the trees. And what I heard from my
body, from my deep Earth self, was thiscut me some slack, for
pitys sake! Im working overtime here, processing wholesome
food, converting that food to energy, hauling us around this track and
into the woods and out to play pool, wherever we want to go and play.
I am adjusting to all this and it takes some time. So, give me some
time. Keep doing what youre doing and Ill keep doing what
Im doing and well be fine. Calm down, girl. This is life,
not the Boston Marathon. Enjoy! Did we bring the water bottle?
See how wise my body is?
I am evidently a slow learner because I had to learn this lesson again
at the first real snowfall of the season the first year of Willendorf.
My daughter woke early, gleeful about missing school and having time
to recheck her social studies project (which, of course, she did not
do because she spent the day off playing in the snow, hanging out with
her friend Erika and watching DVDs).
I check my weight every day. At this time I was in one of those plateau
periods where I had gained and lost the same few pounds over and over
and had come to the conclusion that I looked fabulous, felt fabulous
and was, in general, fabulous. And, moreover, if I could get through
the Eat-a-thon of Yuletide in Appalachia without actually gaining weight,
Id be ahead of the game. So, no worries.
I got my work schedule at the bookstoredifferent days off, some
longer hours, the annual store birthday partyand also began planning
our circles seasonal celebration for the Solstice. At the same
time, I and my business partners were planning a pilgrimage to Britain
scheduled for the following spring. So, yes, there was unusual pressure.
But nothing compared to what I was about to put myself through.
The world was silent and still. I had a day ahead of me at home to do
some holiday preparations. I ate half a banana, went to the bathroom
for my workout clothes and, while naked, stepped on the scale.
I had gained two pounds.
And I freaked out.
I immediately planned to double my exercise for the day, to starve myself
into submission. All I could see in the day before me were endless opportunities
to eat. I could see myself getting larger and larger until I had to
go back to Goodwill and buy back all my old clothes. I saw myself sick
and pathetic and...
This is the result of hubris. Do you know about hubris? It was familiar
to me from classical Greek dramas, all of which had characters who suffered
from this problem. It is the pride that goes before a fall. It is that
cocky feeling that we in the South call the Big Head. Its
the arrogant sense of superiority that always gets you in the worst
You see, I thought I was immune to those things that happen to most
dietersweight creep, lack of confidence, sabotaging friends. I
was the exception and everyone said so. I was the amazing Byron, the
poster child for taking control of your life and health, the zealot
of listening to your bodys needs and loving yourself exactly as
This could not me happening to me.
I had fallen victim to my own hype and here I was, on the scale, regaining
all the weight I lost. There was no way out of it: I was going to have
to punish myself and get my willful body into submission.
I dragged myself to the exercise bike because my usual walk was out
of the question in the snow. Water bottle in hand, I planned a long
lonely bike ride, beating myself up along the way.
And then a funny thing happened and I cant tell you how often
this is the case. As I exercised, I felt better. I felt stronger and
less freaked-out. And then I felt happy. Ah, endorphins. Youve
got to love them.
My body was doing its exercising thing and my mind was calming down
and I was starting to judge the situation without fear.
I looked out the window and saw the snow. We had been blessed with a
remarkably warm autumn and it had only recently gotten cold in the mountains.
Pedal, pedal, pedal. The weather was supposed to clear up later in the
day but it would still be chilly.
It hit me at about Mile #2. I had been thinking the day before that
my metabolism didnt seem to be set on hummingbird
lately. I didnt get ravenously hungry right before meal times
or need to carry an apple with me at all times to fuel the machine.
Winter. Cold. Metabolism. As a woman who carefully follows the cycle
of the seasons, I was being awfully dim. My body knew though, and, as
I pedaled, I asked myself about this hypothesis that was forming.
You reckon were slowing down for the winter? Not hibernation per
se, but conserving all that precious energy because we need to stay
warm in this new season?
Yep, I reckon, came the response.
I had berated myself and terrified myself and been meaner to myself
than I had during this whole process. I had rushed to judgment and condemnation
because of two pounds, the very thing Ive been telling people
I wasnt doing. I felt a little guilty and a little ashamed. And
then I finished my biking, drank a bunch of water and started the day
again. With love and trust, the Wiccan way.
There will be times when this happens in my life and in your life. We
will react out of fear and it wont be pretty. Well lose
our sense of humor and take ourselves far too seriously. I hope you
will have the presence of mind to remember what youve been doing
and not run screaming through the house, clutching a water bottle. But
if it takes you a while to remember, youre not alone. Dont
forget to breathe. Dont forget to listen. And try not to freak
And I will try to practice what I preach.
So I keep on doing what Im doing and I give my self the luxury
of time. Im not on some frantic schedule to fit into a size 8
dress for the prom. Im changing my whole life. Im embracing
the sweetness of doing and playing and living. Ive got all the
time in the world.
So do you.
Thank you all for sharing my Willendorf journey thus far and a special
blessing to those of you who have called or emailed or stopped by to
tell me that youre finding ways to love your earthy selves. Good
for you, good for us! The manuscript for Embracing Willendorf:
Loving Your Body to Health and Fitness is now with my agent, who
hopes to place it very soon. Ill be sure to let you all know when
the book is out and where it can be acquired. Until then, listen to
your heart and feed that wonderful machine that is you. All the best!
© Byron Ballard