Fat to Fit to First Level: When the Going Gets Tough…

“The hard is what makes it great.”

“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.” – Jimmy Dugan, A League of Their Own

When I began my fitness journey in January 2017, I had grand notions of doing what all those informercial folks do – losing weight quickly and consistently so my “before” and “after” would be no more than a year apart.

I would consistently shed weight, firm up, condition Kaliwohi, and we would have a nonstop positive progression towards my goals of losing weight, getting fit and getting my mustang trained.

You know what? There’s a reason for the fine print under all those ads showing folks who’ve slimmed down dramatically in an equally dramatically short period of time. “Results not typical nor guaranteed.” Preach!

The reason I put myself out here each week, despite the seemingly turtle-slow pace of my journey, is because I know there are so. many. like. me. Real people who have real jobs and real horses and real lives and real issues with food and emotions and body shapes and “all the things.”

Grown-ass adults, in other words.

Nobody force-fed me sugar to get me overweight. I did it. Maybe I did it to keep from shrieking at someone who deserved to be shrieked at and maybe in the future I’ll shriek instead of overeat. Maybe I did it to keep from driving my truck off a cliff because sometimes life seems too damn hard. [Fortunately, my faith and some really good friends helped me through my darkest moments; if you have dark moments, please, please reach out to someone. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255]

When life seems the most challenging, that is when one’s mettle is tested. And that is when the opportunity for success – real, lasting, success – arises.

I rode my first horse, Sam, for twenty-six years. I was a kid and he was a green bean and somehow, despite all our mutual and collective ignorance, in all our years together, Sam and I never had a spat. Sam never once spooked, never jumped, never balked – he never even shook his head in annoyance.

Sam was a steady-eddy pickup truck. Sam didn’t care about balanced seat, quiet legs, steady hands, deep breathing in rhythm. Sam just did as he was asked and we were both ignorant of the nuances. Twenty-six years of success, so I thought, “I’m a good rider.”

Then came Lady Grace. She’s half-Arab and half-mustang and sensitive like a Formula One race car. Nuance is everything to a horse as sensitive as Grace. She was two years old, fresh from the fields she grew up on, and I quickly realized she and I were going to need professional coaching.

Despite a great dressage instructor, I have come off Grace more times than I care to admit. I remember the hardest fall to this day. Three years into our partnership, we were in a lesson and something spooked Grace and she was under me one second and not the next. I landed on my back and the air rushed out of me so fast I felt like I was being squished flat.

Grace is a brilliant athlete and she knows her job, so when I hit the deck, she froze. My riding instructor came and helped me up, and my then-husband took Grace’s reins. I needed to walk a bit to gather myself after such a fall, so we began to walk the length of the arena.

And walking alongside my lovely black mare, I began to sob. “I hurt SO much!” “She is too much horse for me!” “I’m SUCH an unbalanced rider!” “My responses are too slow!” “I’m too stupid!” “I’m too short!” “I’m too fat!” “I should just give up!” “I will never EVER learn to ride well!”

I got back on Grace for just a couple of 20-meter walk circles, but I was in so much pain I could not trot or canter. I dismounted.

I did not ride Grace again for weeks. The bruises healed up after a few days, but my confidence was shattered by my own negative self-talk.

It was Grace herself is who encouraged me to mount up and try again. Grooming and hand-grazing her and just spending time with her from the ground made me realize how much I respected her and how much I wanted to become worthy of her.

So I did. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. Riding a sensitive horse is hard. It is also exhilarating. And worth every bit of the effort required. The hard is what makes it great.

So now, here I am, not at my goal weight – not even to thirty pounds gone yet, despite a lot of sweat and effort. My body has dropped inches and become stronger and more fit. But the scale seems stuck and my clothes have been size 14 for months and months now. It is frustrating, like that tough fall from Grace.

Losing weight and getting fit when one is not young is HARD. According to Dugan’s logic, this explains why there are so many obese fortysomethings (and up) who don’t even try. They just buy bigger stretchy pants, plop down in front of mindless entertainment, and munch away. They tell themselves, “it’s my metabolism” or “big thighs run in our family” or an endless variation of excuses as to why they can’t/won’t/don’t lose weight.

If this journey was not hard, everyone would do it. While I would have loved to have lost all my weight in six easy months, I realize now that this journey is supposed to be hard.

Why? So I can eliminate anything I lean on other than God. So I can get rid of every excuse. So I can appreciate the progress I am making as I traverse this difficult path to fitness and healing. So I can appreciate my current level of fitness, especially when compared to so many of my non-active, obese, not-trying-to-get-healthy age peers.

So I can grow on up from grown-ass to badass.

“The hard is what makes it great.”

Kaliwohi snuggles. Photo by Esther Roberts

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