Welcome to “Slim Chance,” a new, twice-monthly series in which author Amber Petty documents the happiness and crappiness of losing weight. Read the first chapter here.
Weight: 248 pounds
Weight Lost: 5 pounds
F-bombs flew out of my mouth like pigeons emerging from a Times Square dumpster: copious and pissed. Sure, I was in a public park on a Sunday afternoon, but I couldn’t help it. I was so mad. Everyone hates you, I thought. But there was no going back. I had to stand by my terrible mistake: joining a co-ed softball league.
I tend to be an “all-or-nothing” kind of person. I either really love something and go all in (yeah, I’ll eat no carbs, no dairy, and no fat—it’ll be great!) or all out (this diet is killing my soul—I demand ice cream!). In the past, I did extreme diets of all kinds: 4-Hour Body, Atkins, keto, Eat for Life. (4-Hour Body can go eff itself, by the way, though that’s a story for another day).
So yeah, I like to really commit to something big, then inevitably burn out and go back to my old habits. And I’ve still got the “all-or-nothing” bug. So instead of easing myself into a gentle fitness routine, I decided to make the bold choice of joining a softball team.
Where the hell did this come from? Well, a few months ago, I saw my first live Dodger’s game and realized two things:
1. I need to stop avoiding activities because I think they’ll be crowded. It’s L.A. Everything’s crowded.
2. I love baseball.
Though no one would describe me as “athletic,” I did play softball for years as a kid, and the truth is, I was kind of good at it. So why not relive some of that childhood fun?
I signed up for a super-noncompetitive team on L.A.’s West Side, broke in my new baseball mitt, and fantasized about being the “not-bad fat girl” on the team. A sad fantasy? Yes. But a girl may dream her mediocre dreams.
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When the day came to play my first game, I was nervous.
I didn’t know anyone on the team, the park was an hour’s drive away, and the most horrifying thought sprang to mind: I hadn’t played softball in 20 freaking years!
Twenty years! I kept thinking it had been like a decade or something, but oh no, I stopped softball in seventh grade—and that was a full Jaden Smith ago.
As I sat, stopped in traffic on the highway, a whole slew of anti-softball revelations came to me:
- I hadn’t seriously exercised in two years.
- I have a completely sedentary job and pretty much get zero-to-two steps a day.
- My Casper-esque skin gets burned in two seconds and I forgot sunblock.
- Running the bases requires actual running.
- I’m horrible at running.
- I hate running.
And the worst one:
- If I suck, the whole team suffers.
That’s what got me. Even in a silly, no-pressure softball league, I hated the idea of disappointing everyone and letting down my team.
So when I arrived at the park, all these negative thoughts were swirling around in my skull. Then we started to play.
And I was terrible.
I knew I’d be terrible. But even with my low expectations, I was still a disappointment.My throws were terrible, balls were going through my legs, and I struck out every. single. time. And I was so mad at myself.
Just a random collection of the trash talk I was telling myself during the game: “You’re ruining the game for the whole team.” “Holy crap, you missed another ball—go get it, you idiot.” “Everyone would be having fun if you weren’t here.”
As I hid out in right field, my eyes filled up with tears. I felt so inept. But the immortal words of Tom Hanks came to the rescue: “There’s no crying in baseball.” You’re right, Tom Hanks. I won’t let you down!
I sucked it up, finished the game, and left the field as fast as my sore knees could take me.
On the hour drive back home, I calmed down and started to look back on the game a little more objectively.I thought people hated me and were mad I was there. But they weren’t. I projected all my anger at myself onto everyone else. In reality, people were super nice! They asked my name and cheered me on, just like they did for everyone else on the team.
And you know what? Everyone was terrible! Sure, there were a couple people who were pretty good, but everybody else hit poorly, missed plays, and watched ground balls slip right past their mitts.
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But I was the only one who decided to have a terrible attitude—so I was the only one who didn’t have fun.
After figuring out that I didn’t need to treat the game like the World Series, I went to my next match with a smile on my face.
I was going to be terrible and still have a good time.
And I did! I performed slightly better—and even got a hit! Sure, it was because of a first baseman error, but I’ll take it. Our team still lost, but since I’d managed to pack away some of my crippling self-criticism, it was a good time.
You’d think I’d go on to play each week, make new friends, and start getting good, right? Nope.
After that game, I quit the team. To be honest, it was just too much. And that sounds incredibly stupid, I know—but it was annoying to drive two hours for a one-hour game. I’m already uncomfortable meeting new people, and having to go through the self-consciousness of being around strangers was tough for me. This had nothing to do with the people on my team, who were all lovely—I’m just not great socially. And, though I had a better attitude, I still hated the idea of slowing down a whole team because of my lack of ability.
Add to that the fact that I was dealing with a new diet, trying to ease my still freshly diagnosed anxiety, and starting a new job, and the softball team was the stress-straw that broke the camel’s back.
So in the end, I tried to go all in—and wound up with nothing.
But it’s not all bad news. On the diet side, I’ve been really careful about not going into “all” mode. I’m counting calories, aiming for a 1-2 pound per week weight loss, and I’m not cutting out any major food groups. So, like Oprah, I can enjoy bread. I just can’t enjoy it at every meal.
Surprisingly, the diet stuff is going really well! I mean, there hasn’t been any of that, “Oh, I have so much energy now” feeling you read about. I feel exactly the same. But it’s nice to feel like I’m in control of my eating, and I know my body will appreciate the dip in calories and the new abundance of vegetables in the long run.
So recently, I’ve been failing at fitness but succeeding in my diet, and that’s not so bad. And softball is definitely not the end of my exercise experiences. After two weeks of occasional softball and consistent dieting efforts, I’ve lost of a little more than 5 pounds. Yay!
To be honest, my first thought when I see I’ve lost 5 pounds is: It’s not really that much, especially when you have so much to lose. But I’m not gonna let my inner-demon-voice be such a little jerk. It’s great that I lost 5 pounds. I’ll even give it another yay. Yay, I say!
As I wrap up the second column of my weight-loss adventures, I want to thank everyone who reached after reading my first. I was scared that a picture of my midriff would cause blindness or insanity, and instead, it brought out a lot of compassion and support. If you have any questions or want to share your version of the happiness and crappiness of weight loss, please comment or message me on Instagram.
Join me again in two weeks to see if I survive the temptation of tortilla chips.
Amber Petty is an L.A.-based writer and a regular contributor to Greatist. Follow along as she shares her weight-loss journey in her new bi-monthly column, Slim Chance. Take singing lessons from her via Sing A Different Tune and follow her on Instagram @Ambernpetty.