When I was in my late twenties a specialist told me my knees were not capable of being a runner. So I ran a marathon. My knees had been problematic from my early teens. Running the marathon, fortunately, did not make them worse.
I didn’t even start running until adulthood. I had not realized how much a “runner’s high” would help my mental clarity and mental health. Different things help different people and this one helps me. So I became a runner.
There are times I’ve stopped running. When I was pregnant with my first baby and had Cancer it derailed a lot of things. I put on a boatload of weight (it was Thyroid Cancer), extra time was taken up with medical appointments and surgeries (both procedures and recovery). My first pregnancy, not surprisingly, ended in a c-section. Though I tried VBAC with my second, and went a good long time in natural labor, that too ended in a c-section. With a traveling husband, two babies, two c-sections, and thyroid levels that always needed adjusting, the weight never came off. Each pregnancy and thyroid fluctuation seemed to bring additional pounds with it.
So I spent a decade or so intensely berating myself- my laziness, my inability to stop shoving my face with food, how fat and slobby I looked in the clothes I bought solely to cover up as much of me as I could. I masked it at night with wine. That added to the pounds. Can you imagine a person feeling worse about themselves? Sadly, statistics and plain old conversation show you surely can.
But I wasn’t a fat lazy slob who couldn’t stop filling her face with food. I was a human who’d been through a tremendous ordeal and lived in a diet culture that capitalized on that. Fatphobia continued to prove it.
I hit forty (click to read) and things got better- my weight did not decrease but my self worth increased. I started to see how diet culture is structured to make -women specifically- feel awful about ourselves. There are lots of reasons this is beneficial for a group of people, but that is for another post. I learned about Fatphobia, and that it is not just about saying mean things about people- it’s a practice that is discriminatory and keeps people from getting proper medical treatment.
I made the connection that scarcity thinking bred by diet culture caused me to eat more and eat things that did not make me feel good. It caused me to obsess about food. The more I obsessed, and tried to stop eating it, the fatter I got. I saw, with my own soul, that when I stopped thinking about what I ate, I ate less and had sooooo much more time to think about other awesome and exciting things!
So for a couple of years now I have basked in the living of a new found self-love. A relationship with my self that sees the many, many, many good things I have to offer myself, my family, my friends, and the world. I stopped thinking about the shape of my vessel that contributes these things and started appreciating that I have a good and healthy one.
Alas, here we are. I started running again at the beginning of the year with probably another 40 pounds on me since I ran the Boston Marathon. A couple of months ago I started to feel it in my knees. As my distance increased and my time decreased they were getting more and more uncomfortable.
So now, I am faced with a decision: do I want to try to lose weight in hopes that it will help me allow to do the thing that helps me so much? Or do I decide that I will look for other ways to gain that clarity and mental health benefit?
See, it’s a choice. I don’t have to be thin just because that’s what society values. I don’t have to lose weight to be worthy. The contributions I make to this world do not increase or decrease with the pounds on my frame. It is now a matter of practicality with a far different motivation.
If I decide to lose weight I will leave behind the berating and the belittling and the need to do this for others. It will be a logistical choice that will bring with it more cooking and thinking about food, temporarily. It will be no different than making sure I take a medication each day for my mental health- it’s just a thing I can do so that I might be able to keep doing the thing that makes me feel better.
The good news is I need not experiment with what will work for me to lose weight and still feel good, I already know what to tap into and what program to use. That makes it easier. What will make it even more easy though is knowing this choice -either way- has nothing to do with my value and self-worth.
I’ve never run to beat a time or win a race. I’ve never run because it makes me look better or to be part of a group. I’ve never even run with a group. I have always run because of how much it helps my mind. So if I decide to lose some weight it will only be so I increase my chances of being able to run longer.
Maybe your story of weight gain doesn’t start out as seemingly exciting as being pregnant with Cancer (YAY!). Maybe it feels like your story doesn’t justify your weight gain. We don’t need justification. We owe nobody an explanation. Trust me, we are owed an explanation for how wronged we’ve been.
Some of us have bodies we love and some of us have to learn to love the bodies we have. Either way, it is our body and nobody else should get to tell us what we are supposed to do with it. Run. Don’t run. Diet. Don’t diet (they really don’t work anyway. Like, truly, backed by science don’t work). Wear a bikini. Don’t wear a bikini.
For me, tapping into what makes my own body feel good makes my life bigger, brighter, happier, and richer. Whether or not I decide to try to lose some weight so I can keep running, I will not allow myself to lose all that I’ve gained because of how others think I should look.
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