Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Rewriting the Past

This week I seem to have been mainly coming up with plans, and putting them into operation, for various "new" sporty activities. It was only when I started thinking about it though that I realised how un-new most of them are. I'm still counting as new anything I haven't done in the past 10 years or so, but it did get me thinking about who I used to be and how I used to see myself.

I've written before that I always used to be keen but untalented, and that my fear of looking stupid was more of a demotivator for me than not enjoying sport. It hit me again, as I played netball for the first time in 11 years last night (and we won!), talked about setting up a rounders team over summer. It also hit me as I noticed the new bike racks in the office car park, and planned a climbing weekend in the Dales.

I used to play netball and rounders. Correction, I used to enjoy playing netball and rounders. I used to walk or cycle at least three miles to university every day. I used to ride my bike all day during the summer holidays, round country lanes and up and down hills. I used to enjoy the week long activity holidays they took us on to Wales when I was at school. I may have been physically fat, but I'm not sure that I was ever "mentally" fat. I never shirked exercise, sitting inside playing video games (maybe because we didn't have them) or watching tv. If it was sunny and I didn't have homework I'd play outside in the lane or in the fields round my house.

It's still a mystery to me in some ways why I was fat at that age. It certainly wasn't through lack of activity, and I don't remember eating that much more than my sister did. Maybe I wasn't as fat as I thought. I don't remember how much fatter than other people I was, maybe it was just a relatively small amount at that stage, and it only became more of a problem later? Enough to be noticeably fatter, but not enough to be a significant bar to my activity levels.

Or when I start thinking like this am I rewriting my history? Recasting myself as active and slightly chubby, rather than acknowledging that I was fatter than that. The truth is, that I genuinely can't remember. I know that I thought of myself as fat, but I have no idea how fat I actually was. Is the chubby theory the truth, contrary to what I believed at the time, or was I bang on the money back then, and am I now underestimating the scale of the problem?

The thing is, at this point it suits my purposes to think of myself as a fit and active person who went off the rails for a while, rather than as an always fat person who lost weight. Thinking that way allows me to hold out a realistic hope of doing this permanently, rather seeing my current lifestyle as a change which I need to be constantly vigilant about keeping up. It allows me to tell myself that this isn't hard, because it's what I've always done apart from a few years when I left university and didn't have a structure to my life that activity fit into. I started driving to work, didn't have any compulsory sports activities to do, and didn't know how to go about starting on my own. OK, the active stuff I did as a kid didn't necessarily work as effectively as my current routine, but I still did it, and if I did it then, I can do it now.

If I thought of myself as someone who'd always been fat, the fear factor would be bigger, like I'm holding back a tide of gelatinous gloop that wants to settle on my thighs the minute I step out of line. I'd be more scared of failure, of going back to what I used to be. But if I focus on the parts of who I used to be that are the same as who I am now, it's easier to see how I can stick to this.

So, the upshot of all this is that I'm booking that climbing weekend, my name will be first on the list next time rounders or netball is mentioned, and that I'll seriously look into getting myself a bike and cycling to work.


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