Selfishness Required

selfishIn the interest of full disclosure, the title of this post is intentionally “click-bait.” For me, “selfish” relates to your relationship to others (lacking consideration for others). What I’m referring to here is more about “self-care” which relates to your relationship to yourself (providing consideration for yourself).

Sometimes I lament that I didn’t get into running earlier in my life. How much better might I feel (and perform) had I figured out how to take care of myself (nutrition, exercise, empowerment) when I was in my thirties or even my twenties?

But I don’t think I could have done it then, and here is why: Taking care of myself requires a level of self-care that I didn’t possess when I was younger. I didn’t even have a concept for this.

141256472.tiagBCsKI admire women who possess this trait without abandoning their responsibilities – a very tough tightrope to walk. My sister, for example, has 4 pre-school age children (triplets no less), a full-time job as a teacher, is working on her second masters degree and still manages to run regularly and gets in date-night with her husband every week. I’m not sure what she deals with internally to get everything done, but I’m pretty sure it means making tough choices and putting herself first when necessary.

I’ve always struggled with that, frequently working myself sick trying to take care of everyone but myself. The list used to look something like this:

  • My daughter
  • My partner (when applicable)
  • My family
  • My job
  • My family
  • My family (I have a very big family, so there is always someone needing something)
  • My close friends
  • My colleagues
  • Acquaintances, strangers, random people
  • Myself

Sometimes the order changed. There were weeks where my job leapfrogged to the top of the list or when a close friend edged out a family member. What didn’t change is where I was… way, way down at the bottom. Obviously my daughter always came first, but it went so far beyond that; I needed to make sure I was there for friends, family, partners, employers. Often there was nothing left over for me.

 

oxygenBut I’m working on changing that paradigm. At this point in my life I’m willing to put myself first and invest time for myself, but I have to think about it and make a conscious decision to put my needs before others. Of course, even today if I have to choose between something for my daughter and something for me, I will still pick her every time. Luckily I’m at a stage in my life and she is at a stage in her life where I don’t have to pick very often. More than that, I’m learning to say no to family, to bosses, even to my bf, when I have to.

Part of my awareness that I needed to invest in self-care occurred because I got seriously sick. I needed to learn to say “no” just to get through that. It was very freeing, but it may have been short-lived once I got healthy. I actually think the fat-acceptance movement was a very important part of moving me to this awareness long-term.  As I started to come around to a mindset that I was worth something – in spite of being fat – I also started thinking I was worth taking care of.

Consider training for the NYC marathon. I regularly spend 12, 15, 20 hours or more a week. It isn’t just the hour or three of actual running: There is the getting ready to run and the post run recovery time. (I’ve been known to lay in bed for a few hours after a long run – don’t judge). There is the time spent posting about my runs, time spent researching running, reading about running… I’ve probably spent 20 hours researching GPS watches and I still haven’t bought one. And most of the time I feel like I’m not doing enough.

me post run

This is me, post-run. How long I lay there depends on how tough my run was and how much time I have. I always factor the post-run crash when deciding how far to run.

I’ve gotten to the point where I lie about how much time I spend running. They are small lies: “I’m going for a quick run” means I’ll see you in an hour or so. “Going for a long run” means don’t even look for me for the rest of the day. “A short run” can be up to 6 miles and “We can do it after my run” means I’ll probably be late and most likely useless when I get there. I think my BF is on to me. The last time I said “I just need to get in a run first,” he laughed and rolled his eyes. “I know what that means,” he said.

In spite of everything I’ve written here, sometimes I still feel like I’m selfish – putting my own needs above pleasing others. What I’m slowly learning to recognize is that these feelings aren’t true. It isn’t selfish to take care of myself; it’s actually healthy.

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TBT: Would You Talk To A Friend Like That?

47f5c4827e3c5ab95de6bb1f9f287719I’m trying a new feature: Throwback Thursdays. As I search to find my way again, I’m going to re-read old blog posts and revisit the themes. I’ll give you the link to the original article, and then some commentary on how my thinking has evolved or gotten tangled up.

I’m picking Would You Talk To A Friend Like That?  from September 2014 as my first TBT article. Two weeks ago was my daughter’s 22 birthday party. At the party someone commented on her body transformation. My daughter is autistic, a struggling reader, and a person who needs support to function in the community. But when asked about her weight loss she spoke about nutrition and exercise as if she were majoring in it at college.

For the past several years she has struggled with various diets and exercise regimes, as I did when I was her age. She’s tried “magic pills,” food replacement shakes, starvation, kick-boxing, etc.

how-to-have-a-beach-bodyMost recently she has been following the “Beachbody” food and exercise plan. I don’t know a lot about it, just what I observe. It is fairly expensive, but she pays for everything herself and I only give her advice if she specifically asks for it. She measures her food using plastic colored containers. And she makes these chocolate shakes which she says helps with food cravings. From my point of view it  seems like she is eating healthy foods and enough calories to not be starving herself (a vast improvement on some of the crazy plans she was following). She wakes up early every morning to get in an exercise routine (DVD).

Physically she is getting the results she wants. She is losing pounds and gaining confidence. She posts before and after pics on Facebook. She is proud of the hard work she is doing an loves getting a chance to share her success with others. In the middle of the conversation she made a statement that made me want to cry:

I used to love going to the beach when I was little, but when I got fat I was ashamed to wear a bathing suit.. Now, I won’t go swimming until I can wear a bikini– not a fatkini or plus-sized bikini, but a real bikini. I won’t feel comfortable until I feel good about how I look.

My immediate reaction is “I’ve failed her.” It didn’t help that everyone else at the party was oooh-ing and ahh-ing over her weight loss. She has told me that body-acceptance is fine for me (since I’m old so it doesn’t matter how I look, I guess) but that she can’t love herself unless she has the type of body that society deems acceptable.

rupaulWhen I started to think about it, though, I realize that I let a lot of that slip into my own thoughts far too often. I continue to have internal thoughts that are negative. I can’t until… I won’t because… I’m too old, too fat, too plain…

Self-love and body acceptance isn’t a thing you achieve. It is something you have to work for all the time. Sooo, I’m re-committing to my relationship with myself. I promise to be a better partner to my body and start treating my body as a cherished friend, not the enemy.

Here is my updated list to help me woo myself:

  • More massages, mani-pedis, and haircuts. (Boy do I need a haircut)
  • Looking at myself in the mirror every day, and looking for what I like best in the reflection. (I’m pretty good with this one most of the time)
  • Letting people take pics of me, taking selfies (it’s not a bad word) with my loved ones, and posting pics on my social networks.  I don’t Photoshop out fat, wrinkles or birthmarks. (I have to do this more. I’m better than I was, but not there yet)
  • Buy myself beautiful clothes that I love, rather than waiting until I’m a specific size, because damn it, I’m worth it. (Do running clothes count? Cause I buy a SL of them)
  • Taking some time for myself every day, even when work is super busy, and my personal life is super crazy. (This. I need to do this more!)

 

New blog for the second half…

Cloud 2I’ve been blogging under the name fatnforty for the past 6+ years (and tweeting for 8+ years), but as I am about to turn 50 in less than 6 weeks I finally decided it was time to change my name.  It was a struggle to come up with something that spoke to me, but after much discussion (and a failed twitter poll) I have selected FitFatRun.

For me, my forties were about coming to terms with who I am as a person, as a woman, as an athlete. (I can now call myself an athlete without embarrassment). I have learned to love the body I’m in (not the one I wished I had) and treat myself as well as I treat others.  I plan on using what I learned in my forties to make the second half of my life an awesome adventure. My grandmother lived to 102 and played golf until she was about 96, so I fully expect that I have at least another 50 years to make my way through life.

goodstuffI don’t know what comes next for me, exactly, but barring something unforeseen (a car hitting me while I run is not a far-fetched theory) I plan on being active as much as I can for as long as I can. I plan on challenging myself, and trying new things. I expect there will be many things I’m scared to do, but I’m going to do them anyway. I want to learn and grow as a person. I want to contribute to the world I live in.

If you are coming over from my old blog, thank you for your ongoing support.   If you are a new reader, welcome. Please feel free to chime in with comments, suggestions, and your own perspective.

 

 

Just Not 40 Anymore

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I’ve been blogging for 10 years! Hard to believe.

In less than 6 weeks I’m turning 50. It is supposed to be traumatic, turning 50, but I’m actually kind of excited about it. It seems cool to me that I’ve lived this long and I get to look back on all that I’ve accomplished. I’m in better shape at (almost) 50 than I was at 40, 30, or even 20.  I can run farther and faster than I ever imagined I could.

Being excited about being 50 might have something to do with how I feel about my health and my body right now.  If my 40’s taught me anything it is:

  • I love my body; it can do amazing things
  • If I treat my body like I love it; it will love me back

fitfatrunIn fact, there is only one thing I don’t like about turning 50, and that is that I feel it is time to give up “fatnforty” as my twitter and blog name.  I tried an experiment to see if I could get the “40” to mean something besides age, but after a few weeks that plan fizzled, and I realize it wasn’t meant to
be.  So now I’m officially closing this blog and changing my twitter handle.  After much debate I’ve come up with a new name: FitFatRun.  I will post re-directs to my new blog for a few weeks, but then will most likely archive this site.

Thank you so much for all who have sent words of encouragement or posted your own inspiring accounts over the past 10 years.  I hope you like the change and decide to follow me on my new adventure:

 

 

 

 

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.

A Magazine for Me

womens-running-august-issue-coverWhen I saw the cover on this month’s Woman’s Running magazine, I immediately went out and purchased a subscription! Why? Because I felt so validated and inspired. This month’s cover showcases the beautiful and strong Erica Schenk.

I don’t think I look that good running, but this is way closer to me than any other woman I’ve ever seen on any other magazine. There is this myth out there that only thin women run. Or worse yet, that if you were really running regularly, you would be thin.

I don’t care if this is a stunt, or pandering, or whatever motivates a magazine to do something. Someone pitched the idea of a plus-sized model for the cover and other people said, “Yeah! That’s a good idea!”

Better than that, when they interviewed her they asked her real questions. “How did you start?” “Where are your favorite places to run?” “What gear is always in your gym bag?” In fact, only one question focused on her body size, and Erica’s answer nailed it:

WR: Too often people equate “runner’s body” with “super skinny.” How do you think that affects runners?
ES: Some women believe that since they have curves they can’t run or shouldn’t run. Running is for every body anytime. (Read more)

I believe in showing support with $$. This is a subscription I'm happy to pay for!

I believe in showing support with $$. If I don’t like your company, I won’t buy your product, no matter how good it is. This is a subscription I’m happy to pay for!

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.

102 Miles

Dear Body,

Thank you for putting up with me through thick and thin, through fast and slow, through pain and injury and self-doubt. Thank you for totally killing it this month. You are the best!

Love, me.

Goal: Run 100+ miles in a month. Results: Killing it!

Goal: Run 100+ miles in a month. Results: Killing it!