A New Year Start

happy new year2015 was a great year for me, health wise:

It may be the first time in my life that I maintained my weight (staying within 5 lbs) for a solid year. No drastic ups or downs – just clean eating (mostly) and pretty relaxed about diet.

I learned a lot about accepting my body this year. I’m appreciative of my health and not so wrapped up about my weight.

It was definitely a banner year for me in terms of meeting my fitness goals:

  • I ran over 1,000 miles (1,023.3 to be exact) and walked over 4,000,000 steps (4,361,000, but who’s counting?)
  • I completed my first half marathon in under 3 hours (2:35:58)

2015 running monthlyI have to be honest, I wasn’t sure I was going to make the 1,000 miles. The last few months the only thing that got me out running was the fact that I really, really, wanted to hit the 1,000 mark. It took me until late December, but I’m so happy I did it!

My third goal for the year was to write weekly about things I’ve learned. That didn’t quite happen. I used this blog quite a bit to get ready for the half, but then life, work, and other things took precedence, and I haven’t posted since September.

In all, I only wrote  9 truths and with only 14 weeks until I turn 50, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to (or even want to) meet this goal anymore.  I am going to re-read the ones I did write, because I think it will help me get back into that head space.

The thing about meeting (or not meeting) goals is that you always have to set new ones.  I can’t just repeat my goals from a previous year. Where’s the challenge in that? So here they are, my official 2016 goals for the year:

  • Run 1,250 miles because I totally have to up the ante, and I want to commit to running at least 100 miles each month.
  • Finish a marathon in less than 6 hours which sounds both totally doable and completely insane.
  • Complete 50 hours of yoga because I see that my body needs more than just running, so this works out to about an hour a week.
  • Grow something to eatThis one is a little bit out there, and was inspired by a cool blog post (10 Food Resolutions That Don’t Involve Body Shame). I do not have a green thumb, I never grow things, and I rarely cook, but I thought this might take me out of my comfort zone a little and I like that idea quite a bit.

So there you are! What are your goals for 2016?

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Fat Girl with Thin Privilege

I recently wrote a post about being called “Not fat” (Not a compliment, btw) and it got me thinking, which is always dangerous. I’ve read a lot of interesting articles recently about thin-privilege and I thought it was important to note that even though I self-define as fat, I also have to recognize that I benefit from thin privilege. Here are some ways I personally benefit from thin privilege:

  1. clothes clipartI can shop in almost any store and find something that fits. This is a relatively new phenomena for me. For most of my life I could only shop in plus-size stores or stores with plus-size sections. I appreciate this every single time.
  2. seats clip artI can fit into most seats, on airplanes, at movie theaters, at amusement parks, in restaurants with booths. Sure, some are small and a tight fit, but no one suggests I can’t go somewhere because of my size.
  3. I can run in spandex and tank tops and not get constantly moo-ed at, yelled at, cursed. (girl runningAll these things happened to me regularly when I started running.) I still get yelled at occasionally, but  not so frequently or aggressively. I’m not made to feel that the clothes I choose to wear are an affront to someone else.
  4. cheesecake clipartI can order dessert or any other food I want without fear of aggression. I can’t tell you how many times I would choose not to eat something in public rather than risk a “Do you really need to eat that?”comment (or something much worse).
  5. Resume-ClipartI am not discriminated against at work due to my size. I work in education, a field that is less discriminatory than other fields in terms of size, but I don’t think I would have the job I have now if I still weighed what I did 3 years ago. I know for sure that I’ve been denied jobs and promotions in the past due to my size.
  6. doctor clipartI can visit a doctor and expect to be heard, rather than getting a knee-jerk (lose weight) reaction.  Well, not quite yet. The last time I went to get an annual physical my doctor looked at all my stats. Blood pressure? Perfect. Hear rate? Perfect. Respiration? Glucose levels? Cholesterol? All perfect. So what did my doctor say? You need to lose weight.
    I’m due for my annual again and just don’t want to schedule it because I don’t want to deal with this.

stethescopeIn the absence of any medical issues (other than fat) why do I have to lose weight anyway? What in my health data gives you the idea that I need to lose weight? You know, other than I’m fat… Which is apparently  a devastating medical condition that needs to take up all my time and energy.

Want to learn more about thin privilege? Here are some of my favorite resources:

wonderwomen

Not Fat? That Isn’t a Compliment

fb_williams

Click to read the whole article.

It started with a conversation about Serena Williams.

“I don’t really understand what you posted on Facebook,” he tells me.

“What do you mean?” I ask. To me it’s so self-evident. Serena is awesome. Her attitude about her body is awesome. The way she deals with shamers & haters is awesome. Lots of awesome.  But he didn’t know anything about the media slams and Internet trolls (he’s cute and naïve that way). He was flabbergasted that anyone could look at Serena and think she was anything but beautiful. “Like Wonder Woman beautiful” were his exact words. And this is where the conversation got tricky.

virgieThe reality was, we weren’t exactly having the same conversation. He wanted me to explain how people could look at pictures of Serena and think she was fat or un-attractive. I wanted him to understand that the purpose of my post was that the conversation shouldn’t be what she looks like. This is a world-class athlete. A woman who has redefined the sport. She doesn’t just win Grand Slams, she wins “Serena Slams!” Why do people think they get to have an opinion about her looks?

After a while of back and forth he gets to , “Do you think you’re fat?” Oh boy!

We’ve been dating for almost a year and that one question underlines how badly I’ve failed both as a body-advocate and as a girlfriend. So far I have been completely unsuccessful in articulating to him the following:

  1. When I define myself as fat, it isn’t body-dysmorphia, it is self-empowerment and self-love.
  2. How others define me isn’t as important as how I define myself.
  3. Fat isn’t a derogatory term unless you let it be.
Jess Baker recently wrote an excellent post saying all the things I can't explain about this.

Jess Baker recently wrote an excellent post saying all the things I can’t explain about this topic.

I’m really glad I found someone who sees me as beautiful and sexy. I want him to desire me and get “hot and bothered” when I walk in the room. Telling me I turn him on is a compliment. Telling me I’m sexy is a compliment. However,  when he tells me I’m not fat, it isn’t a compliment. It undermines my self-identity in a way that is difficult for me to verbalize. (Although I’ve tried to here, here, and here.) It makes me feel like he isn’t seeing me.

I can be beautiful and brunette. I can be beautiful and blue-eyed. Why can’t I be beautiful and fat? And, for that matter, why do I even have to be beautiful. Personally, I’d rather be called smart, strong, or kind than be called beautiful.

Some ideas for how to give compliments on things besides looks and physical appearance, from artist Caroline Caldwell

Some ideas for how to give compliments on things besides looks and physical appearance, from artist Caroline Caldwell

Early in our relationship I asked him not to compliment me on how I look but on what I do, but he could never really wrap his head around that concept. I tried giving examples. I can’t even tell you how excited I get when someone says, “I never thought about it that way before,” or “Because of you I understand something I never did before,’ or “I feel very special when I’m with you.” These are compliments.

As our discussion continued I realized that a big part of the disconnect comes from his own body-image issues and experiences.  He wants and needs to be told he is sexy, and handsome, and desired. I wasn’t sure how to get him to understand so I held his stomach with both my hands and said, “I really love your belly. I love this part of you. And if this part gets bigger I will still love it. And if this part gets smaller I will still love it.”

Side Note: It has taken me several hours to write/edit this post. Writing about something so personal is very difficult. This isn’t my normal post about being empowered by running or how I feel about my food. I’ve edited and re-edited the words over and over, trying to get the right tone and be sure I’m saying what I mean. Even then, I’m sure I’m not getting it all “right.” This makes me think I need to forgive myself for not being able to communicate these feelings in a live-and-in-person conversation, where I can’t think about every word carefully, and delete the ones that don’t come out exactly right. Just wanted to add that in.

Don’t Skimp on Yourself

33 weeksThe original title of this post was “Don’t Skimp on Running Shoes.” Then I added “Or Running Bras.”

Then I thought, “Well, that doesn’t apply to people who don’t run….” So I started looking for the bigger message and I realized it was more about making sure you take care of your own needs.

The right pair of running shoes can make you feel like a track-star!

If you are exercising regularly (especially running or walking), good shoes are important. They provide a foundation. They keep you from getting hurt. If you buy cheap shoes things will hurt more than they need to and you will be more likely to give up.

The same goes for running bras. I can’t speak for women of all sizes and shapes, but larger women particularly need to invest in some good running bras; something with maximum support, wide, padded straps, and absolutely no underwire (trust me on this). There are fewer choices when you are shopping for plus-sized running bras.  The goal of a good sports bra is nothing should move.

running braGood running shoes and good running bras cost money. When I started running I didn’t have much money and it was tempting to try to purchase cheaper products. I think if I had gone this route, my running days would have been numbered. Instead, I opted to go without other things (I had one pair of work shoes for a really long time) and invested in good quality bras and shoes.

In the long run (get it??) the investment paid off, because I was able to meet my goals. When you are cutting back, there are plenty of ways to skimp and save. Cutting coupons, buying store-brands, waiting for sales. But when it comes to the things that support you (shoes, bras, whatever) don’t always go for the cheaper option.  Invest in what you need– invest in yourself.

Don’t Bully Yourself!

35 weeksThis might seem so obvious as to be ridiculous, but I couldn’t move forward until I learned to be nicer to myself. I have spent most of my life as my own worst enemy.  No one could ever make me feel as low or as bad about myself as I did. It has been a constant struggle learning to quiet the nasty comments in my head, and to speak kindly and encouragingly to myself.

bully1You know the old trope of the angel and devil sitting on each shoulder, telling you what to do? For most of my life, I have had the equivalent of Tania Degano (Muriel’s Wedding), Sadie Saxton (Awkward), and Regina George (Mean Girls)  sitting on my shoulders telling me what a loser I was. Sadly, I believed them when they said I was fat, ugly, worthless, and not worthy of being loved.

The truth is what other people say to you or about you isn’t nearly as important as what you say to and about yourself.  It has been a long, difficult process.  I started by trying to compliment myself more. I worked on trying to forgive myself for past mistakes. To let myself be less than perfect. Even recognizing that this is an essential part of my journey, I find I have to re-learn this lesson over and over.

bestieDespite my best intentions,  these “mean girls” still come out from time to time. When I choose to veg out on Netflix rather than get my workout in, for example. Or when I backslide on my food plan, treating myself to something “off limits.” It takes a lot of work and effort to quiet their shrill voices.

I find that I’m most successful when I try to imagine what I would say to my daughter, my sister, or my mother, and then say that to myself. But why do I find it so hard to be nice to myself?

Don’t Get Hurt

37 weeksI am almost 50 (37 weeks shy, to be exact) And here I am training for a half marathon. What if I get sick? What if I get hurt?

ankle2One thing I needed to learn (and I keep having to relearn, because, hey, I’m a slow learner) is that you can’t help yourself if you hurt yourself.  Negative self-talk is one way to hurt yourself emotionally, but in this instance I’m  talking about physically getting hurt. Sometimes you can’t help it (a car comes out of nowhere or you get sick or you trip on your own feet), but many times injuries are a function of overdoing it. Running too much and not taking rest days. Running in the dark. Running on unmarked trails in the woods. (FYI: I’m completely guilty of doing all of these, even though I know better.)

When I had my serious operation almost two years ago (which eventually became the catalyst to my transformation) I let myself heal slowly. I did a little bit more every day and worked my way back to health. It was a good plan.

yogaIf I got sick like that today I would have a much harder time being patient. I would want to rush my recovery (I see this every time I get sick) But time and again my experience has shown me that long-term results depend on short-term patience. And listening to your body. When something hurts, aches, or twinges – do something: Rest it, ice it, heat it, or get it treated!

My new rule is “If my mom or daughter told me these symptoms, what would I tell them to do.” And then I do that. Because I know I would give them the best care possible and the best advice possible. And I deserve just as much.

doit

Admire Your Reflection

39 weeksI used to only look in the mirror to do a cursory check. Is my hair brushed? Is there anything in my teeth? Are all necessary parts covered? I didn’t like looking at myself because the mirror meant seeing what I wasn’t, not what I was. mirrorwarning

One thing I’ve learned recently is that if you want to learn to love your body, you have to start by looking at it — I mean spend some time really looking. The more you look, the more you can find what you love about yourself. When I first started I only looked at the parts I liked – my hair, my eyes, my calves…

But over time I found that there was beauty everywhere: In my scars, my stretch marks, the fine lines forming around my eyes. Even in the flap of skin that hangs over my stomach. Even my birthmark. I needed to learn to fall in love with myself, and that started with taking time to look.

Like a self-esteem version of the John Legend song that goes:

In the Harry Potter books we learn that the happiest person in the world would look in the Mirror of Erised and see a reflection of them, exactly as they were.

In the Harry Potter books we learn that the happiest person in the world would look in the Mirror of Erised and see a reflection of them, exactly as they were.

‘Cause all of me- Loves all of you
Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections

(Listen to my daughter cover this song here)

Someone said to me recently that I look in mirrors a lot more now that I’ve lost so much weight, but the truth is they have that completely backwards; I started looking into mirrors more and that helped me get to a point where I could lose weight. The cart can’t come before the horse.

You Are Fat. Own It.

40 weeksBefore I could even begin working on changing any part of myself, I learned that I had to love the person I already was. That meant learning to love my fat. Nothing else has been so important nor so difficult.  I started reading a lot of fat acceptance blogs and looking for motivation and inspiration from activists like Jess Baker and Ragen Chastain. Also people IRL, like my sister Nuchtchas, who is who she is every day.

LoveYourBody02smA few things I’ve learned about fatness and being fat. First, fat isn’t a four letter word. It isn’t something ugly to be hidden under oversized, tent shaped tops. It can be beautiful, sexy, and brave. It can even be healthy. 

The worst thing I have ever done is to try to not be fat. I’ve risked my health, my happiness, and my sanity trying to be not fat. I’ve tried diets, pills, any crazy idea that I thought might work. Some did (briefly) but weren’t sustainable.  Others made things worse. None made me happy.

In fact, even when I lost weight I realized that being not-fat didn’t change who I was.  I’m still me and at any weight, I’m still fat.

So now I embrace myself as a fat person. Regardless of my weight or the size pants I wear, I am a fat person and will always be a fat person. Once I own it, and can embrace it, I can move on. This is the heart of my self-acceptance program (and I’m still working on it) that allows me to be a better, richer, fuller me.

Wow, You Look So “Not Fat”

ambivalentOver the past few weeks I’ve had reasons to see people I haven’t seen in a long while, including some work colleagues from other parts of the country that I only see once or twice a year, a long-time friend who lives in another state, and someone I used to go to school with and haven’t seen in years. At each event I’m greeted with the shocked-surprised comment about my looks and I’m surprisingly ambivalent about it. Sure it is great when someone sees you and says, “Wow, you look fantastic!”

Except there’s a subtext. What I actually hear is, “Wow, you look not-fat!” When the comments come from most men or thin women, they usually follow-up by repeating the sentiment in different words so that I know it isn’t a platitude, but that they really, truly mean it. When the comments come from women who struggle with weight (and occasionally men who struggle) the follow-up is always “How did you do it?” Both sets of comments make me uneasy but it is the latter that makes me the most uncomfortable.

On a scale of 1 to Four Weddings and a Funeral, how uncomfortable do you feel?

On a scale of 1 to Four Weddings and a Funeral, how uncomfortable do you feel?

Here’s the thing: losing weight wasn’t the goal so much as the by-product. I wanted to get away from my food addiction, feel better and stronger, and get healthier. I felt older than my years and tired all the time. That was my original motivation anyway. As time went on I learned more about loving myself and my body and caring for myself. I focused on feeding my body the nutrients it needed, exercising for fun, and being gentle with myself. I try to be my own best friend instead of my own worst enemy. I’m breaking a lifetime of bad habits.

And along the way I lost about 90 lbs. It came off very slowly and at a certain point I stopped losing. (I suspect there is a correlation to running very long distances, but it could be that I’ve achieved my correct natural weight). I’ve been hovering around the same five pounds for the last six months, not gaining and not losing (a heretofore unknown phenomenon) and I’m happier than I’ve ever been, not because I weigh a certain amount but because I don’t really care what I weigh. So how do I respond to the unsolicited comments?

I usually try for a simple “thank you, I feel good,” (move along people, nothing to see) and some of the time that is enough, but most of that time my compliment-er doesn’t want the conversation to end there. How did you do it? is a whole, long conversation. If I’m dealing with an acquaintance, I usually stick with something like “healthy eating and exercise” which has the advantage of shutting down he conversation, but makes me feel like I’m feeding into the system of body policing – as if the goal to be thin is understood and accepted by all. If I don’t speak out, I’m part of the problem, aren’t I?

dear dietSometimes I say, “I gave up dieting and started focusing on self-acceptance,” which has the benefit of being truer, but almost always launches a much longer conversation than I really want to get into. I’ve told a few close friends, “If you want to know more you should read my blog,” and a few have, but most are really looking for easy answers about what I’m eating and how frequently I’m exercising.

I think I look great because I’m happy. I smile more. I get more sleep. I worry less. I still have lines and wrinkles and varicose veins (when did they show up??) and bunches of fat around my belly, but I feel strong and empowered and whole. So why, then do comments about how good I look invariably make me feel that it is just because I’m not-so-fat anymore and (for now) am fitting into what is “normal” and “acceptable.” And why does that make me feel so uncomfortable?

It’s Official – 134 days 23 hours 15 minutes to go

The Inaugural Suffolk County Marathon and Half MarathonThis morning I took the plunge and officially signed up for my half marathon. I’m excited! And scared. (Well, excited and scared!) I’m thrilled that the proceeds for marathon is going to benefit the Suffolk County Veterans Service Agency, which is dedicated to providing local military veterans with services and programs. Not only is this an important issue, but the benefits are for veterans who live right here in my area.

Before I registered, I did all the things you probably do before signing up for your first half:

  • I checked out the route on the map. (I’m familiar with the area so I’m comfortable that it is mostly flat and pretty scenic)
  • I downloaded advice from Runner’s World for first time marathoners. (Some things I knew, but there was really good info here.
  • I put in for time off for the day before and the day after. (I think I’m going to need a buffer!)
  • I checked the Frequently Asked Questions and was pleased to see I could change from half- to full-marathon if I change my mind later. (Hey, you never know?)

Then I signed up. Only there was a funny thing on the registration. It asked me for my “weight class”. I had never heard of this before in running. Sure, there are weight classes in boxing and wrestling, but running? Apparently for men, they call the heftier runners “Clydesdale” (OMG, really?) and the more zaftig women “Athena.” I had to check this out. Is this  really a thing?

Her time might improve with proper footwear.

Her time might improve with proper footwear.

Yes, apparently it is a thing, (although much more prevalent in triathlons) and I guess it makes sense biologically. All things being equal, a person carrying around an extra 50 or 100 lbs of weight is expending more energy. From my research, it isn’t about fitness or fatness. You can be heavy and short and not make the “Athena” cutoff weight. You can be very thin, fit, and tall and still qualify.

Generally speaking, having a larger build means you must expend a greater effort to get the same result.  Take running – if all other fitness factors are held constant, a 6’4”, 230-pound guy will struggle to run as fast as a 5’10”, 180-pound competitor, simply because he’s hauling more weight. [link]

I was shocked by the weights they consider “heavy”. It seems like there are variations from race to race as to what constitutes an “Athena.”

weightclassFor my race, they have two divisions; I am, of course, in the higher division – I guess you could call it Athena-plus! Even if I lose 15 lbs between now and race day, I’ll still be in the highest category. Here’s the thing: at my absolute thinnest (in my 30s) I was about 145 lbs and a size 6. I can’t imagine ever as an adult being under 140 unless I had a serious disease. I’m tall, but not very tall, but I do carry more weight. I’m one of those body types that defy BMI (and proves BMI is junk-science).  Mostly, I am concerned about what this might say to people who are much heavier. I would hate to think that someone would be discouraged by this and not want to run.

Anyway, the weight division is optional; you can choose to participate or not. After looking at a lot of websites that discussed pros and cons [here and here, for example] I decided to do it. The only person I’m interested in competing against or comparing myself to is me. I have my own personal goal (I’d like to finish in 2 hrs. 40 min) but even just finishing would be great. Still, I always like to see how other women my age do in races, and it might be interesting to have another point of comparison (i.e. weight).

I’m just really, really glad I don’t have to be a Clydesdale. That is the worst name ever.