Lots of links today!
- Fitness: A nice NY Times article about exercise and weight loss – why it works differently for everyone
- Music: People are buzzing about “music discovery engine” Pandora – here are some tweaks from Lifehacker to make it work better for you!
- Fashion: I know some of you will like this: A new fashion blog: Styledash is giving away one free designer bag a day – all you have to do is comment to enter!
- Really cool stuff: Moo makes “business-like” cards made from your own Flickr designs. FREE Global Shipping on all orders in September…Hurry up!
I am starting to settle into my new gym, and I am liking it. Even though it opens at 8am, which is early for an Italian gym, many find it still too early to work out. I’ve actually had several coworkers ask me how I do it. I usually pull out my old 5:30am workout time if I want to hear groans and see dropped jaws. They are so predictable sometimes.
Which means that the gym is quite empty in the mornings when I go, and that’s fine with me!
I’m not expecting the gym to be much of a social scene for me, and this was one of the reasons I chose the gym I did back in the States: the people there were serious about working out, and not checking out girls. Not that I’m such a hot ticket, but if other people around me are serious, it’s motivation. I expect the gym scene here will be even (better) since Italians aren’t that social outside of the gym, so one can hardly expect them to become more so inside it!
In the mornings there are about half old men, and half young women. Where the older women and young men are, I have no idea. They probably show up after 6pm. There is one woman who I have seen repeatedly (every one of the times I’ve been) in the mornings. She’s a runner like me, and we always end up trying not to look at each other in the numerous mirrors that line the treadmill room.
My first day I was already a bit intimidated as this young woman ran and ran next to me. She had the gaunt form of a true runner – long, lean muscles and an endurance I had to admire. I was having a hard time just getting through the 20 consecutive minutes I had promised as a goal, and she was going twice as fast as I. Dressed in a long sleeve T-shirt and workout pants, I couldn’t help but think how she was burning up when compared to my tank top and shorts.
In fact, the first thing she said to me was, “Fa caldo!” (It’s hot)
I said, “Si,” nodded politely and gave a “approachable-but-not-too-eager” smile.
The next time, we exchanged smiles of recognition as I took my place on a treadmill not too far from her. After completing my run, she asked me to tell the reception to turn on the air conditioning. I told her, “you need to wear short sleeves like me!” – she was dressed in her uniform of a navy blue long-sleeve T-shirt and long black pants. She smiled and kept running.
Every time I went to the gym, I saw her, so I figured we were both part of the gym “morning crowd” and felt a certain sense of camaraderie. We exchanged hellos and got down to work. That is, running.
When I started my cool-down by walking, she seized the opportunity. “Are you American?”
I had been found out. I nodded and said, “You can tell, eh?”
She didn’t remark on that, and instead mentioned that America was her dream and her sister had just visited California. She continued running while we were talking, which I simultaneously hated and envied. I prefer not to speak while running, because usually I can’t because I’m so concentrated actually intaking enough air to continue.
I dug up my courage to ask, “So, are you training for something in particular?” I was hoping to get some inspiration, some understanding, or maybe even a workout partner. I’d seen her often enough to wonder.
“What? No….” She seemed surprised to have been asked and waved it off. “I’m too tired.” Her brisk pace seemed to make a mockery of her words. “Actually, I have a condizione alimentare.”
Condizione alimentare? A nutrition problem? Maybe thyroid? I nodded, not sure how close our new friendship was, and if I should ask more.
“I’m not sure if you know it…” she paused, seeming to search her vocabulary, “anoressia?”
Anorexia? Did she just tell me that?
I chose that moment to glance back at my treadmill’s display and made a generic sound of affirmation. I guess we are much closer than I thought. What I was really thinking was…WHAT????
She continued on, never breaking her quick stride, “Yes, you know, I have problems with my body image…” Long sleeves and pants. Bingo. “…I have problems eating…”
I continued to give her my attention, just listening. I had no idea how to react to any of this. I had no idea why a perfect stranger was telling me about her problem. Was this a cry for help? Was this part of her recovery? Was it resignation?
I wanted to make friends, desperately. I especially would like to make more Italian girlfriends. But there are few things that can make me pause when taking on a new one. Being anorexic is one of them. It’s so at odds with who I am – loving food, eating it, enjoying it, eating some more. I know my body is imperfect and I’ve accepted it, and I enjoy it!
I am not discounting the emotional and mental problems behind anorexia. I just don’t know how I could ever lose the self-consciousness while eating or talking about eating if I was around this person. I don’t know if they would despise me, envy me, or be disgusted by me. I don’t know at what point I should encourage this person to eat, to not talk about it at all, to be nosey and push or to ignore completely. Which role would be best suited to a friend?
Hopefully her telling me is part of her recovery. To look it in the face, to admit to herself and others that she has a problem. To remind herself that each day she has to fight this battle. Against herself. Against her mind as well as her body.
After I finished my routine, I had to go to work. It is impossible for me to know how long she’s there after I leave, and on the days I’m not in the gym. I said my goodbyes and I watched her reflection out of the corner of my eye as I walked out of the room. She was staring in the mirror at herself as she ran and ran and ran. No ipod or music, no distraction from her goal. To change what she was seeing.
Hopefully a change for the better.