Why Weight Is A Heavy Hitting Issue In The Running Community
I want to talk about a word so many people, myself included, use in association with their weight and it's shame. I spent well over a decade consumed with my weight. I've always been slightly heavier than my sister or my friends and that wreaked havoc on my self esteem.
I tried everything from not eating, throwing up, diet pills, crash diets, fad diets, to laxatives, the list goes on and on. I desperately wanted to have the same body as my sister. It wasn't fair that we shared the same genes and that no matter what I tried, I was always heavier than her. I was consumed with my weight and I was deeply ashamed that I couldn't control it. The problem was, I was a kid! I went through it alone because I was ashamed to ask for help or even admit that it was a problem for me. I didn't want anyone to know that it bothered me. No one wanted to intervene because they saw how uncomfortable it made me. I put up a strong exterior because I wanted to own my weight, even though my weight was owning me.
Despite the fact that I wasn't comfortable in my skin, I was always a healthier body weight. The fact that I was so consumed with it was the problem. It only became a problem after my brother passed away and I unraveled at the seams. That was when I stopped being active altogether, developed incredibly unhealthy habits and gained over 75 pounds. A balanced diet went out the window because I stopped wanting to do anything. I lost myself. It wasn't conscious and the weight gain felt like it happened overnight.
Anyone who's ever had to lose a significant amount of weight knows that it's so much more than counting calories. If losing weight were as easy as "what you ate and how active you were" it wouldn't be an issue. For me, I would never have successfully lost the weight and kept it off had I not been in therapy at the time. I had been through something traumatic and I needed the help of a professional to help me work through how I coped, what I went through and my body dysmorphia.
There's a really powerful moment happening in the running world right now. Women's Running put Erica Schenk on the cover of their August magazine and Runners World wrote an article titled, "Is it possible to be fat and fit? At 250 pounds, distance runner Mirna Valerio provides an inspiring example." It's an incredibly exciting and powerful statement to stand behind someone who doesn't "look" like an athlete. It's brave to put yourself out there the way both Erica and Mirna have. I never would have had the courage to do what they're doing because I was far to ashamed of the way I thought I looked.
Here's what really bothers me, the opinions. Go on Reddit or any of those online message boards and you'll be met with exactly why I harbored so much shame. Judgement. Please save your comments and your judgements because unless you've walked a mile in these strong women's shoes, you don't really get a say. Here's what these articles are doing, they're empowering anyone who's struggling with finding motivation to get active to say "Hey, if she can do it so can I." They're changing the way we see runners. Running is intimidating. I never thought I could run because I wasn't a runner. I didn't look like a runner, and I still don't "look" like a runner. When I decided to run a marathon, I thought "FINALLY! I'm going to look like a runner." Well, five marathons later (and counting) and I'm the same size, just a lot stronger. These articles aren't making excuses, they're empowering people to get up and get running. Period.
My God! How vile it is to read people say, "This glorifies what it means to be overweight." What the hell are you talking about? No it doesn't! This glorifies running! The problem isn't their weight, it's what you see. When I look at them, I see two women running. When you look at it, you see two overweight women. That's the problem.
Anyone can be a runner. Anyone. Getting started sucks for everyone, overweight or underweight. If we can remove the shame anyone feels from that journey, we'd all be better off. So do me a favor, stop with the opinions. Go get a diary and write them down if you're so compelled to get them off of your chest because you're doing the world (but mostly yourself) a disservice by publishing them online.
Running has helped me throw the number on a scale out the window. It's changed my relationship to food! I eat for fuel and enjoy my meals because it's not a huge deal anymore. Do I still struggle? YES. But moving forward is infinitely easier because I take a second to say, "Why are you really feeling insecure? Is it because you think you need to look a certain way or disappointed in the 6 minute 29 second mile you ran on Saturday? Remember when that happened. YOU'RE STRONG." If there's a cupcake around, I eat the cupcake. Do I feel the need to have 3 or 4? No, chances are I have to run later and three cupcakes before a run is a recipe for disaster. Do I feel better when I'm eating veggies, fruits, complex carbs and lean proteins? ABSOLUTELY! Do I enjoy a post 15 mile run cheeseburger? Hell yeah I do! It took me an entire year to lose 75 pounds. It's taken me over two years to establish healthy habits. It didn't happen overnight and it wasn't until I ran a marathon that I was finally able to put my weight behind me.
You really can have your cake and eat it too, but you have to be willing to do the work. If weight loss is your goal, that's great. I can't speak for either of these women, I can only speak for myself. I was miserable and exhausted when I weighed over 200 pounds. It's why I made the change. Just because something is true for you, you can't expect that to be true for someone else. That's your truth, not theirs.
Regardless, you have to love where you're at now and enjoy the journey. That's why I love running. If you want to lose weight, make it your goal to run a half marathon. Focus on the training and fueling in a way that supports that goal and the weight will take care of itself. Your goal should always be to be stronger not to be skinnier. You're already the best you possible. You're enough. But you owe it to yourself to continue to fight to be the best you possible. Until next time, #RunSelfieRepeat.