Runners have always fascinated me. And not, at first, in a good way. When I saw men and women, of all shapes and sizes, lumbering, flailing and slogging down the road, red faced, sweating and frankly, looking miserable, I would think to myself ” Why would you do that to yourself? It can’t be good for you and it looks like such a bore. Spare me!” But one day at the gym, I was on the treadmill in a frenzy of post binge pre-film shoot panic, trying to sweat off the mysterious bulge that had appeared on my 40th birthday and firm up those famously flabby British thighs in time to reveal all to the cameras, when a nauseatingly trim and irritatingly pretty little person popped on to the machine next to me and started running, nimbly and effortlessly at 7.5 mph and singing along loudly with her Ipod. I cast a surreptitious glance in her direction to see just exactly how trim and how pretty this person was and to figure out how she could be so deeply antisocial. Didn’t she know Gym Etiquette 101? That you just don’t sing along in public when you have headphones on? It’s just not nice and there’s not a person in the world, except maybe Whitney Houston, who can pull it off. Well unfortunately she was that hot. Not an ounce of fat on her, perfectly proportioned, beautifully dressed, perfect skin ( she had that glow) and just to top it off she was happily running at least 2.5 mph faster than I was. I nudged the speed up on my treadmill just a bit and tried to focus on my fat burning efforts. I comforted myself with the knowledge that she was clearly nuts to be singing like that in public, but couldn’t resist taking the occasional peek to see if she could keep up her incredible speed. And yes, she could……. Annoying……. After about 40 minutes of tripping the light fantastic in her own personal Studio 54 she finally came to a stop . I gratefully slowed down my treadmill to match hers, the humiliation complete and looking forward to entertaining all my ‘Mean Girl’ friends with’ The Curious Incident of The Crazy Singing Lady In the Gym’. It was then that she took me completely by surprise. She turned to me with a big sweet smile and said ” You know, you’re an amazing runner? Do you ever run outside?” Well that was altogether too much. She’s nice, too? Now I can’t possibly hate her. ‘ Uhh…no…not ..really…I don’t like it” I mumbled ungraciously. “You should you know, you’d really like it. Why don’t you come out with me sometime. You’re gonna LOVE it, you’re gonna be GREAT!!” she said. I looked at the Crazy Singing Lady then, with her beautiful oxygenated skin and her bright sparkling eyes and realized that this was, in fact, a very good person. A person who knows something that I don’t, a person who has uncovered a great spiritual secret. A person who is so on fire with the joy of that secret that she couldn’t give a fig if she sings off key and everyone thinks she’s crazy. And she was inviting me, the evil wanna-be twin, on her journey. This was a person I couldn’t possibly dislike, she was utterly compelling, her energy and spirit, infectious. ‘Ummm…ok…’ was my answer. We exchanged numbers . And that is how I began my affair with running. My little running friend took me gently and selflessly ( must have felt interminable to her) around Calabasas the first time and told me I was fabulous! Ooookaaay! We planned our next run and our next and she introduced me to her other lovely running friends and so on it went. I ran with her for several months and we ran fast ( I have since discovered). My self confidence began to improve and my enthusiasm for life grew with it. I had discovered the elation of running, the freedom in the steps, the joy in feeling my legs and heart getting stronger, the quickening of my senses and an ever increasing wonder at the beauty in the world. I had discovered a whole new group of people, that I had never before noticed and I saw them everywhere, running calmly and smoothly, their bodies in perfect harmony with their minds and spirits, their bliss visible to the world and I wanted to be one of them. I wanted what they had. There’s something about runners that is different. They seem to have an openness and generosity of spirit that is unmatched. They are welcoming and accepting of all levels of talent and experience. They do not judge or compare ( at least, not often), they just encourage because they know the joy of running is felt at all levels and everyone who laces up their running shoes and gets out there will eventually feel it. Thus, all runners are united in spirit and that feels really good. It feels really right. I believe it is how we are meant to feel towards each other. I believe it is, quite simply, love.
The other night my girlfriend ( and she knows I’m writing this-it’s ok girls!) had a complete meltdown while getting dressed to go out for dinner. Everything she tried on looked like crap. She was ‘old, ugly, fat……’ Didn’t have a thing to wear, didn’t want to go out, just wanted to stay in and watch another interminable episode of Masterpiece Theater. Horrified at the thought of sacrificing a perfectly good evening out with my best friends, my favorite Tequilla and the probability of getting soundly laid, in favor of two hours of simpering Victorian heroines with moldy teeth and bad hairdo’s, in bed with Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm , I scrolled through my mental rolodex for the answer that would just GET HER OUT THE DOOR. Unfortunately, being no dummy, my girlfriend is not convinced by plain “NO!” or ” You look great, I love your ass.” In fact, those platitudes just seem to aggravate the situation and launch her further down the rabbit hole of self-hatred. Now, I’m a guy. A plain old football-loving, truck driving, meat and two veg kind of guy and I simply DO NOT understand this tendency in women to suddenly feel as though they have gained 50lbs since breakfast. My girlfriend is 5ft 8 and weighs 125 lbs and is far from being overweight and yet when she looks in the mirror at those dreaded moments, she sees the next contender for The Biggest Loser. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a guy doing this. It’s strictly a chick thing.
So. What is it? And what to do? First of all, there are days where a few pounds weight gain is a real thing but not worth more than a moment’s thought, because its simply a matter of what you’ve eaten and when you ate it and it’s easily remedied. Men and women can both experience this minor fluctuation in body weight and a few days of more mindful nutrition and exercise will fix it ( more on that later). However, there is a condition known as Body Dysmorphic Disorder, in which a person neurotically fixates on their appearance or a specific body part to the point where it adversely affects their life. In my girlfriend’s case, the skinny chick looks in the mirror, focuses on a millimeter of fat on her belly, prods it, pulls at it, scrutinizes it from all angles and declares that she is too fat to be seen in public. Every guy’s nightmare, right? So what to do? Well, speaking from personal experience, suggesting that she immediately go into therapy and double her Prozac is not a good plan. Trust me. Getting mad and scolding her doesn’t work either. Telling her she’s crazy and she looks just the same a she did when she was 21 just results in being called a bad liar and her throwing herself on the bed, sobbing hysterically (and thereby worsening the “Ugly” factor). I have tried all of the above with various women and none of them help. What I HAVE discovered in all my years of working with and loving the Fairer Sex is that the question really is ” Do you feel bad because you feel fat, or do you feel fat because you feel bad?” In these cases its clearly the latter. SHE IS NOT FAT!!!! I rest my case. What I have found works is a gentle inquiry as to how and why she may be feeling bad, what is making her so anxious ? Listen to what she has to say and make sure she knows you’ve heard her but above all, DO NOT try to solve her problems ( remember you have a fun filled evening planned!). Follow with a big hug and a slap on that cute little butt that you love so well, tell her she’s hot and you’re in like Flynn.
Next day, send her to therapy.