It’s my birthday and birthdays are always cause for reflection. Especially when you most likely have more years behind you than in front of you. Two years ago, my then 50 year old body carried me across the finish lines of 2 marathons and a half Ironman distance triathlon. There were so many reasons to rejoice over my accomplishments, and for the most part I did, but the accomplishments were overshadowed by something many of us suffer from: Idealistic Expectations.

I crossed those finish lines at roughly 165 lbs, resulting in a sense of failure that I had not met my 140 lb weight goal. I won my division in that 70.3 triathlon but I joked that it was the chubby, old lady division. The couple years I competed in triathlons I also won the Athena division (165 lbs+) in 2 sprints and an Olympic distance race and I placed 2nd at the Challenge Family US Championships winning a cash prize of $250. Every time I won I’d discount my accomplishment by saying, “Yeah, but I won the fat lady division.” The thing is – I WASN’T FAT. At 165 lbs I look, and more importantly feel, just fine. If fact, I’m a bad ass.

Like so many women, I’ve gained and lost more pounds than I can count. My freshman 15 was more like 30. In my late 20’s, after moving to NYC for a high pressure, 60+ hour a week job, I gained 50 lbs. That’s when I found running. I ran in high school and in college did a 10k for charity where an 80 year old woman beat me, but that running was done against my will. Those years in NYC, logging excessive hours in a soul sucking job while getting yelled at, running was my solace. The only time I can completely quiet my mind is on a long run. It was, and still is, the place I solve most of my problems. Racing with colleagues, we completed the 5 boroughs’ half marathons. Back then there were no finisher medals, you had to be satisfied with your accomplishment.

The next decade of my life was a cycle of being overworked, gaining weight, getting back to running and losing it. I’d get down to 140 lbs then slowly work my way back up before hitting the pavement again. Rinse and repeat.

Then in early 2005 I finally left my job and moved back home to Los Angeles. I started a production company with my brother and we made 2 movies. Movie making is HARD WORK. The hours are insane and when you’re an independent producer you don’t get paid until it’s finished. After the 2nd film I collected a decent paycheck and embarked on a mental and physical health sabbatical. For 4 months I exercised, ate right and spent some time in therapy. Hello 140! In fall 2007 I ran my first races in over a decade. Now they gave you a shiny medal when you crossed the finish line. You could run in Disneyland! It was a new day. But as usual, 140 lb Angela didn’t stay around long. As soon as I started working again a few lbs began creeping their way back in.

I’m not sure why it has taken me so long to realize that 140 Angela is not my friend. She’s a tease and an idealistic expectation. She demands that I exercise too much and walk around hungry and grumpy. Quite frankly, she has probably completely abandoned me in middle age, yet I still yearn for her return. Please, come back. I even saved those crystal emblazoned jeans I had made for you in 1996!

But today, for my 53rd birthday, I’m breaking up with her once and for all. So bye bye 140 lb Angela. Let’s all take a minute and admire her. She was hot.

I’m giving away those crystal emblazoned jeans and that snowboarding outfit on the right. They’re out of style anyway. The number on the scale is bullshit. The numbers that count are numbers like blood pressure, cholesterol, and resting heart rate. Too many of my badass girlfriends are stressed out about some idealistic number on the scale that just isn’t reasonable. We are normal people with normal jobs and regular people metabolisms, not movie stars. So why do we hold ourselves to movie star body images? A good friend of mine quit running a couple of years ago because despite all of her friends saying she looked just fine, after years of training and multiple half marathons she could never lose that nagging 10 lbs. Well guess what happened when she stopped running?

The other night I was talking on the phone with another friend. Sunshine has very publically been on a quest to reach 199 lbs for a few years now. Along the way she has gathered a following in the hundreds of thousands. No pressure, right? Down over 150 lbs, ONEderland seems in sight, but as she gets closer, although not abandoned, it’s becoming less and less important to her. She’s more interested in what her body can do as she gets stronger and healthier and how it’s changing shape as she builds muscle and reaches goals on her journey.

So, I’m taking a page out of Sunshine’s book and focusing on finding balance and goals I can live with long term.

My birthday pledge to myself:

  1. Run! Do it because I love the way it makes me feel, not because it burns calories.
  2. Eat better! Because healthy food fuels my body and gives me energy.
  3. Enjoy treats! Allow myself balance and no guilt when I slip up. That just starts a vicious cycle.
  4. Abandon a weight goal! Who cares what the scale says? My goal is to look good and more importantly, to feel good.
  5. And finally, get back into good enough shape to keep up with FFTFL teammate Teri Brown when we run the Surf City Marathon next February. Because FRIENDS, FITNESS & FINISH LINES are what From Fat to Finish Line is all about.