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Excerpt Eleven: You Gotta Have Friends

From the book "From Fat to Fit: Turn Yourself into a Weapon of Mass Reduction" by Carole Carson


We’re all in this alone.

—Lily Tomlin

Because Gayle insisted, I returned to the yoga class. The second one wasn't any easier. Poses that others did effortlessly I couldn't do at all. I watched the hands on the clock at the front of the room. Sixty minutes took forever. After the second session, I told the guy behind me that if I had anything to do with it, I wouldn't come back. He smiled, responding that he once had felt the same way. But, just as he was encouraging me to come back, a fellow classmate had urged him to return. Like him, he said, if I returned, I would end up loving that hour.

He was right. Eventually I acquired the habit, and now, several years later, the 60-minute stretching/yoga routine starts most of my days—and it is my favorite time alone with my body.

Without my classmate's encouragement, I never would have gone back to that yoga class. But return I did, week after week. Slowly I found my flexibility increasing even as my body was aging. Plus, I began to make wonderful new friends, an unexpected and delightful benefit of my fitness project. Now more than halfway into my four months of fitness training, I was finding companions on the journey.

Companions on the Journey

I could no longer buy groceries, pump gas, or shop in my small town without people coming up to me to talk about their own fitness efforts, or lack of them. Readers who followed my weekly newspaper columns couldn't wait to comment on my progress or share their stories with me. A few said they'd started their own programs.

Trips to town now took an extra hour or two because I wanted to listen to each person's story. I could usually count on talking to two or three people in the grocery store, one or two more as I pumped gas, and a couple more at the bank either going out or coming in. Most greeted me by name, which left me wondering how I knew them.

Once the conversation turned to fat and fitness and pounds, however, I knew the person was just like me—searching to find a way to get fit. Sometimes another stranger would overhear our conversation and join in, especially when I was in the fabric store. All of a sudden I would find myself in a circle of women talking and laughing about our efforts to shape up.

In public settings, these strangers made startlingly personal confessions to me and others in our group about overeating and their determination to change. Listening to them, I felt like a minister forgiving the repentant and telling them to go forth and sin no more. I wasn't sure what else to do. Some asked for advice. It was tempting to give, but I wasn't qualified. Other than the general wisdom—"Eat less and exercise more"—I encouraged them to see their doctors, visit a gym, get a health and risk assessment, and take baby steps toward fitness.

That's What Friends Are For

This week I received an invitation to be the honorary guest to begin the 5-km. and 10km. run/walk, the Clydesdale Classic, at the Nevada County, Calif., Fairgrounds. Since I wasn't a runner, I decided I would begin the race with a light jog and then drop back to walk the remainder. Not wanting to go alone, I persuaded my new friend and tennis partner, Dale, to join me.

Responding to the sound of the starting horn, Dale and I began the race in the cold late-autumn morning air. We jogged until we were safely out of camera range. Talking all the while, we walked as fast as we could—more to keep warm than to compete with other athletes—until we crossed the finish line.

Later, while waiting for friends to pack up, I watched the race organizers report results and hand out medals to winners. Suddenly my ears perked up. Was that my name he just called? Surprise! I had placed second in my age category. I figured only two people had registered in my age group—and the other person took first place. But I certainly enjoyed walking to the stage and receiving my medal, to the accompaniment of applause from onlookers.

Next: Carole asks, "What does it take?"

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