A hike into the Amphitheatre at South Africa’s Royal Natal National Park to see the world’s second highest waterfall seemed like a good idea—until it didn’t. With heavy mist obscuring any possibility of a view and a water-slicked, cliff-hugging ladder providing the only way in or out, Richard Kitzinger suddenly found himself face-to-face with his greatest fears.
by Bethany Ball
By my late twenties, I’d been unhappy with my body for a while. I had put on and dropped the same twenty pounds over and over again. Thin, I felt glamorous, but was in fact starving. My ideal weight was not one I could maintain. And heavy was something I was always fighting against. I needed to find a new journey to health and wellbeing.
For years I’d gone to the gym and it made me feel energized and strong. But it made my body bulky. My already naturally broad shoulders resembled those of a line backer. They’d bulked up after years of competitive swimming. My thighs were too heavy to fit in the narrow boot cut jeans, fashionable at the time. Boyfriends described me kindly as “athletic,” when I’d dreamed all my life of being lithe.
Working out made me feel powerful, but that feeling of power morphed into a feeling of being overly caffeinated. I would walk out of Crunch gym, after my regular work out, feeling twitchy and sometimes irritable. I used to call my work out my “Prozac” but, in fact, it didn’t relax me. I no longer felt powerful, I felt combative. Going to the gym made me hungry, sometimes ravenous. In college it was not unusual for me to whip up a batch of Pillsbury cinnamon rolls, eat them all, and then march over to the gym for a couple of hours. I would push my heart rate up to 110 percent, measuring it with two fingers on my wrist. I was “exerlimic” – binge eating and then exercising to the point of exhaustion.
Seeking advice, I emailed an old friend. I considered him a good source of basic wisdom, and he knew my body pretty well. I had been a photography model for him a couple of years before when I’d lived in Santa Fe, after college. Also, he wasn’t the type of guy who would brush off a very genuine comment like, “I hate my body and I don’t know what to do, since going to the gym isn’t working for me anymore.” He responded, “Why are you going to the gym all the time, anyway? Do you want to beat someone up?” He suggested I start doing yoga. “Some of the most beautiful people I know inside and out do yoga. You ought to give it a try.”
This July I turn 59 years old. If I live as long as my mother, then I am about to embark on my last year of life.
Mom, you were the queen of selflessness.You gave up everything for everyone else. My deepest frustration was not being able to get you to see that your mother and sister were sucking the life out of you. Every day, on the phone, you’d try your hardest to get them to listen, think things through, and calm down. It NEVER worked. The medical profession says that stress can cause disease. It's clear in your case that it did.