Cheeseburger in Paradise: The Angsting of a Fat Runner

“I like mine with lettuce and tomato, Heniz 57 and french fried potatoes, big kosher pickle and a cold draft beer…”

So, true. I could write a similar song about tacos.

Hello, my favorite food.

I’m spending a lot of my time in the month of December assessing things running and health-related. I am on a self-imposed running “vacation” so I don’t have anything to fill my time (I’m still running but mostly running the dogs around the neighborhood or meeting a friend here or there for an easy run). This is the first time in three years I have set aside an entire month to rest from running – to reset my clock. I’m resting my body and getting lots of sleep. Something I know I need after a hard marathon training cycle and a new marathon training cycle starting on January 5 but something I am not sure is mentally good for me because I get all up inside my own head and can’t clear the space. I’m also eating some crap like pound cake and cookies because, holidays and breakrooms at work (of which there are 3 I can frequent).

I’ve reconnected with my Fleet Feet friends who I largely abandoned during MCM training because Heather and I had to make our own way through our training plan. I’ve recommitted to mentor at Fleet Feet, the place that taught me that, I too, could be a runner and it wasn’t just reserved for the super-fit or the really skinny women. I’ve gone so far as volunteering (along with my friend Melody) to co-coach a whole section of interval-only runners for the first time in Fleet Feet history on their journey to 13.1 or 26.2 for this Spring training season.

I wanted to coach because I feel very, very passionate about the safe space that is Fleet Feet. I have never felt more like a fish out of water than I did when I decided to start running on my own. Me, Running? Ha. I fell in love with it and I wanted to do it with other people but I was afraid I wouldn’t fit in but I never once felt uncomfortable in any Fleet Feet group. It is, truly, a space where anything and everything is OK. I need to help keep that vibe going. We have all different shapes, ages, sizes and I see them every Saturday and every Wednesday, out there getting it done.

I wasn’t feeling this way about my national Oiselle team. It was causing me a lot of angst. There are very few women in Oiselle who look like me and I am at the upper limit of their sizing (which happens to not be really generous to begin with but that is OK – not everyone has to make running clothes for larger runners but it makes me sad because their designs are awesome and comfortable). At times, at least on social media, there didn’t seem to be a place for all runners in this group (to corporate Oiselle’s credit, they are trying to dispel this perception). I was afraid it was re-enforcing my fear that I couldn’t do this and that I don’t belong. See, when you are a fat girl and have been your entire life (except for the 18 months you spent in undergrad with anorexia and bulimia) you just assume that you don’t belong or that people think you don’t belong. It is why Rebel Wilson introduces herself as Fat Amy in Pitch Perfect, so she can put it out there before one of the skinny girls calls her fat. Unfortunately, I spend a lot of my time hanging out with super-fit women and a lot of time on social media looking at women who look nothing like me and run a lot faster than me. I am sure the national Oiselle team has some other average or larger size women on it. They don’t post on social media, though. The slower ones don’t say anything, either. All the pictures from corporate are women who look nothing like me. I felt like it was really getting to me this month. There was also a bit of insensitivity related to weight going on over on Twitter. It wasn’t from corporate so no blame there and it wasn’t on the official Oiselle team page, either, so I can’t really call it Oiselle-related. People can say whatever they want on Twitter. I can say whatever I want on my blog. I can also unfollow people, which is exactly what I did.

 

I can say, though, that larger size women want to see that you don’t have to be at an “ideal weight” to enjoy fitness. Larger size women want to be normalized because all we see are images of people who don’t look like us and we’re told we’re disgusting, or should cover up or stop eating. That is why it is such a big deal when magazines like Women’s Running put plus size runners on its cover or when the NBC Nightly News features stories like the one from blogger, Fat Running Girl. I don’t want to get into a whole “trolly” argument about how I’m promoting “unhealthy” lifestyles because I’m not (and would it even matter if I was because how people chose to live their lives is really no one else’s business and people who feel like they can say mean things to people  because of their size are just assholes, anyway). I want to show, “Hey, I am not thin by society’s standards but I am doing this and you can too, if you want to. We’re here for you. You don’t have to wait until you are an ‘ideal weight’ to live your life under your own terms”. Oiselle has a woman-strong message I love. We can work on inclusion a bit more. Our NC team leader, Allie, took to the team page to remind everyone that we have room here for everyone and it was very well-received and I love her. I think most people who want to be part of a team do so because they want to hold others up and be held up at the same time.

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Obviously, I am the one who looks like I ate Kathryn and Tricia for lunch.

 

 

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You can easily spot me and this was 10 pounds smaller

 

This is not to take away from the WONDERFUL women I have met in person from Oiselle. My local group is made up of some of the most supportive and non-judgmental women I know. I genuinely love them and don’t feel uncomfortable around them in the least. Same goes for the women I met in person at Bird Camp in Boone last summer. This is MY issue but looking at all these images on social media makes it worse (I don’t feel bad looking at my non-running friends photos so this is, clearly, a running-related issue. An “one of these things is not like the others” issue). I briefly considered dropping off from the national team and only insulating myself with these beautiful women. I ultimately decided that was foolish.

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Slightly better in street clothes

 

So what is my point, you ask? Comparison is truly the thief of joy. I had a lightbulb moment at home last week when talking to Carly. Carly was complaining about how she has a lot of wealthy friends and that money doesn’t seem to be a barrier to anything her friends might want to do. I said to her that there were always going to be people who had more money, more things, were thinner, were prettier, were smarter, etc. I told her that this didn’t detract from her in the least (how about how good that child is at math and engineering?). I suggested she stop comparing herself to others and embrace her strengths. She is good enough in her own right and she is so much more than the brand of boots she wears. A lightbulb went off in my brain – take your own advice. Stop comparing yourself to other runners. Stop comparing yourself to other women. Stop comparing yourself to other mothers. For someone who has spent her entire life convinced that she was not good enough at anything, it takes some convincing but I think I can make it work. If not for myself, I need to do it for my daughter. I really don’t want her to struggle with all of this. A person’s worth is truly not defined by a number on the scale but we live in a society that judges the books by their covers. If I’m fat, I must have failed in some way despite all of my other successes. I hope I’m ready to call bullshit on this. I just need to shut up about it (says the woman who wrote an entire blog post on angsting over being a fat runner). You do you and I’ll do me. You might be thin and run really fast. I might be fat and run pretty slow. It is all good.

I’m not going to lie. I love food. A lot. I don’t think women are supposed to say this out loud but I just did. I love cooking and eating the things I made, figuring out how to do it differently the next time. I love going out for a nice meal and lingering with friends over good food and wine. I love to try new foods. In my journey to be healthier (and my health was the main reason I decided to lose weight and exercise), I have fallen into the trap of equating my self worth to the number on the scale.  I could be “thin”, again, but is that going to solve all my problems – is there a magic number where all troubles melt away? Nah.  I don’t want to spend every minute of every day worrying and being cruel to myself about every piece of food I put in my mouth (believe me, I have). I don’t want to look like a fashion model. I just want to wear Oiselle and be able to walk into JCrew and find stuff that fits to wear to work. I have learned that healthy food can taste good and that I actually like it better than crap food.I eat good food, now. It might not be “healthy” all the time but it is quality. I’m no longer morbidly obese. I’m no longer “unhealthy” by my doctor’s measurements. Why isn’t this good enough?

Is it OK to love food and be a runner? Can I reconcile my love of good food and my love of good red wine with my love of long runs? Can I extoll the virtues of good tacos and still do my Iron Strength workout twice a week? Can I still call myself an “endurance athlete” if I think about porchetta while I run? I think the answer to this is “yes”. I can be a contradiction. I can be a fat runner.  No, I don’t look like a runner but I sure as hell run like one!

Happy holidays, friends. Eat, drink and be merry for marathon training starts in January!

 

IMG_0001This was a few years ago but I just love this picture! I made these little people in my fat body and I think they are pretty damn awesome!