Living in the radical center

I’ve always been a believer in “the middle”.  My personal and political views could best be dubbed “radical centrist”.  There are extremes in everything, but it has been my experience that the truth (or the best course of action) nearly always lies somewhere in the middle.  Sometimes slightly left…  Sometimes slightly right…  But nearly always within 10% of the middle on either side.  It has been hard all my life not to jump to conclusions or be extremist, but just sit back and listen to both sides (the realists with strong opinions, not the radicals with stupid ideas), and then make and live by my own informed opinion.  It is easy enough for either side to skew the numbers to meet their needs so I try to take everything with a grain of salt and if I’m really serious about an issue, I simply do more research and seek out unbiased sources (which are becoming very scarce).  I rarely engage in debate or argument over any issue because I seldom feel like I have all the knowledge I need to do so.  The quote “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than open your mouth and remove all doubt” is one I live by.  And on the rare occasion that passion about a subject or misinformation taken as fact goad me into such discussion, I always lose or get frustrated, so I simply listen and then once I’m sure I have enough facts to make a decision, I do so and stand by it.  If I’m wrong, so be it.  I accept that.

I’m finding the radical center to be my best philosophy for health and fitness as well.  I have tried huge distances and high speed.  I have tried short distances and very slow.  Neither works for me.  Middle distances and moderate speeds work best for me.  High mileage hurts (and not in a good way).  Low mileage doesn’t get me the results I want.  The same holds true at the table.  Tiny portions or extreme diets leave me starving all the time, unable to concentrate and dealing with a continuous headache.  Ignoring portions and just eating til I’m full is fine, but only if I exercise A LOT and pay attention to WHAT I’m putting in those portions.

However, sometimes I can be radical.  Sometimes I HAVE to be extreme.  I know for a fact that my body does not metabolize alcohol.  Therefore it is immediately (and, seemingly, permanently) converted to fat.  If I want to lose weight and keep it off, this has to go.  I can’t moderate my way out of it.  And, honestly, I don’t trust my will power enough to be able to stop at a moderate amount.  So, it’s gotta go.  Cold turkey.  100%.  Gone.  Any drink I have from this point forward will simply be a failure on my part.  Forever.

Another radical, but perhaps not permanent belief I have is this.  I am physically incapable of running distances longer than 13 miles.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, I can DO it.  But the toll it takes on my body is unacceptable.  The goal here is to be physically active for the rest of my life.  I know that I am too overweight to push my mileages up now and if I do, I WILL get hurt.  So… my running mileages will stay at a moderate level until I am light enough that it is less detrimental to my body.  I “might” run a marathon or ultra some day.  That’s why I say this may not be permanent.  But I will not even entertain the idea until the scale says what I think it should say.  And, no, I will not “train” my way down to that weight.  That doesn’t work for me.

I think everyone has (or should have) a few things they believe in strongly.  As long as they don’t proselytize, I’m cool with it and even admire it.  I think I have known the things I have mentioned in this post (moderation, no alcohol, no long distances) for a long time.  I just couldn’t admit them.  I wanted to think that I could just run off a beer or two, or that burger and fries, with a few extra miles.  Seemingly everyone else can.  I wanted to think that I could run long distances like everyone else and that the longer I ran, the more weight I would lose.  But, for me, none of this was true.  I just found myself in a vicious cycle of working out more and more, with the results being less and less.  I tried to blame it on other things but the reality was it just did not work for me.

These admissions are not bad things.  I thought they would be.  I thought that waving the white flag and swearing off beer or marathons (odd to say those two words in the same sentence… no?) would be a failure.  But it’s actually a relief.  It has cleared my vision.  I don’t live in a dreamland of setting lofty goals that I know I will never be able to achieve (in my current physical condition).  I can live now.  With who I am and what I have to work with.  I can run the short route.  I can enjoy a homemade cinnamon roll with my daughter for her 9th birthday.  That’s OK.  Shifting from “that workout wasn’t good enough” to something, honestly, that is really hard for me to say to myself… “nice job”.

So hooray for the radical center…!  But having a passion for a few things is OK too.  I just need to look closely at those things to make sure they are REALISTIC.  Believing passionately about something completely unrealistic is a fools quest.  I played that game for a while.  I lost over and over again.

Today’s quote comes from an old baseball coach, who wasn’t original enough to make it up himself, but never cited his source.

“The difference between who you are and who you want to be is what you do”


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