Over breakfast at work in the staff break room I filled in one of our security guards on my accident, and told him that I’d lost 25 pounds in the hospital. “Oooooh, so that’s why you been lookin’ like a supermodel” he said. I thanked him, as I’m sure he meant it as a compliment, and I told him that I was trying desperately to gain weight, and laughed about how it was the best job in the world and how much I’m enjoying eating anything and everything I want and all those Trader Joe’s desserts too. He sortof frowned and gave me a disapproving dude grunt and said something along the lines of how I should keep my supermodel figure.
A few weeks later and a few pounds heavier, feeling great because I had finally started to fit into some of my old jeans, I saw him again. I was walking into the building with lunch and he nodded approvingly at my supermarket sushi but when I told him there was fried chicken in the bag he cried “nooooo, you HAVE TO keep that supermodel figure!” I tried not to sound too annoyed when I told him “SUPERMODELS AREN’T STRONG.” Sadly, he isn’t the only one who has expressed disapproval at my desire to feel like a normal, healthy, non-anorexic woman again.
Before the accident I was in great shape. For a little over a year I’d been doing a conditioning routine almost every night. Just a simple 15-20 minute set of situps and pushups and other related exercises. In the late Fall before the accident I started running, and when I injured my ankle I started cycling. The day of the accident I went for a ride and was feeling great about the route I tackled. I made it up a previously intimidating hill and a long loop around the valley, all in a light rain no less. I felt great, and I felt strong.
After the accident I was pretty much immobile for two weeks, and when the physical therapists finally had me sit up for the first time my entire body felt like jello. In my third week of recovery they put me on a walker, at which point I realized how fortunate it was that I had been working on my upper body strength for so long. The physical therapy at the rehab center was spotty, but at least they gave me handouts of exercises that I could do in my room. When I got home and got in-home visits by a physical therapist she gave me more exercises and lots of tips for working on specific problem areas. I did my PT every day, except for one weekend when my back seized up in so much pain that I could hardly breathe. That was solved temporarily with heat and rest, and permanently once I was allowed off the walker.
Almost as soon as I was allowed to walk, at about 8 weeks post-accident, I hit my favorite trail. It’s a simple fire road that’s about 2.5 miles long and has some nice elevation change to it. I used to run the entire thing in about a half hour. For a couple weeks I went walking out there almost every weekend day, and took our pups. They’re old and gimpy and for awhile we were on the same level, slowly struggling through half the loop. As I recovered I started to outpace them, and had to separate my exercise from theirs when I finally made it through the whole loop and they looked like they were ready to just lay down and die.
I started cycling again at 3 months post-accident, and I’ve gone for a ride every chance I could get since then. I’ve already surpassed the rides I was capable of before the accident. My last ride was 21 miles, with some nice climbing and a strong headwind seemingly in every direction. I’ve done rides that would have intimidated me before, like some loops on the hilly roads around my house. Not only am I getting much stronger, I’m feeling more comfortable with and asserting more control over the bike itself, something that I’ve always had trouble with.
Just the other day, at 4.5 months post-accident, I went for my first run. My doctor technically hasn’t cleared me to run, but I can feel that I’m ready. When I asked him many months ago when I could ride and run again, when I was still on my walker and sitting in his office in a wheelchair, he kindof laughed at my eagerness and said riding would be at least 3 months, and running at least 6. He said I might never be able to run again, because I might always feel the titanium pin in my pelvis. He said that some people have so much chronic pain from the pin that they have it removed in a year. On my first run I didn’t feel my pin, and I didn’t feel it the next day either. I felt my weak and creaky ankles and aging knees, but that’s nothing new. Mostly I just felt great.
When I first started walking and started to feel well enough to wear something other than yoga pants and tshirts, I tried to put on my jeans and they fell right off. Before I went back to work I had to hit the thrift store for a few pairs of jeans and some skirts in size anorexic just so I’d have something appropriate to wear. I didn’t feel healthy, I didn’t like the way I looked. I remember shopping online at the time for some athletic wear, to replace all the stuff the ER staff cut off me, and for the first time I really noticed the models on these sites, and I noticed that some looked as anorexic as me. Some of them get it right, some look real and athletic, although they also look like they have the luxury of about 10 hours of free-time each day to work out, must be nice. The models in some other online catalogs of athletic gear… not so much. They just look skinny. They look like they couldn’t run a quarter mile without passing out from malnutrition. It’s offensive, that we as a culture promote this kind of weakness in women, and use it to sell athletic gear at that.
I like my body and my weight right where it was before the accident. At 6′ tall, 140ish pounds, usually a size 8 and sometimes shimmying into a 6 on a skinny day, I’ve always felt on the thin side of average, which is maybe why the supermodel comments are a little disappointing. In the few months that I’ve spent in size anorexic I haven’t felt good physically and I haven’t been happy with the way I look. I noticed the affects that a short period of malnutrition had on my skin and nails and hair, and I’m sure it didn’t help my mental state either. Regaining the weight has felt wonderful, and not just because I get to eat as much cheesecake as I want.
I’ve started to fit into my old clothes, and one pair of size anorexic jeans has already been sent back to the thrift store, so I’ll probably slow down on the fried chicken and the extra bacon, but I wouldn’t mind gaining a bit more weight. Before I started exercising regularly a little over a year ago, I was a size 10 and I was perfectly happy there too. My goal now is to put on the weight as muscle as much as possible. Even in my current weight gain regimen, Greg and I actually eat really healthy, mostly home-cooked whole foods. And I’m riding and now running every chance I get, and still doing my conditioning routine and PT almost every day. I feel good, I like the way I look, I’m happy, and I feel strong. You can call me superwoman if you want to. Just don’t call me a supermodel.