Unmentionables

Chubby folk fall under that low rung of society beneath children and the elderly.

Those who should be neither seen nor heard.

Obviously, if you allowed yourself to balloon to the size of a larger zoo animal, you clearly could have nothing of skill or value to contribute to society, right?

I have certainly spent a large portion of my life trying to make my body appear small in a variety of settings that clearly illuminated just how I fit…

…into the seat at the movies or the theater

…into that airplane seat belt

…into the roller coaster car

…into the crowded elevator

…into the revolving door

The thought of donning form-fitting workout wear and bouncing up and down is terrifying for many of us. It wasn’t until recently (like in the last 3 months) that I stopped wearing workout wear that was several sizes too big. Exercising as a 300lb woman felt not only humiliating but physically impossible. And even if you’re a badass body positive babe who could give a flying fruitcake about what your “imaginary audience” thinks, there are very limited options on the market for holding all of that fluff together.

Companies like Lane Bryant, Forever21, Old Navy, and Torrid insult plus-size ladies with their poorly functional line of “athleisure” wear. How am I suppose to run that race in all that cotton!?

Companies like Nike, Under Armour, Lululemon, Athleta – should I go on? – make a thinly veiled attempted at clothing the curvy lady by providing “special sizes” that they lump with maternity wear. Seriously? “Special Sizes”? It’s like a size 20 is a disease or something.

Oh, and by the way, you can never get those sizes in the store – yet another slight that aims to highlight just how little we think of those who aren’t a size 00-10. You’ve got to spend an arm and a leg on shipping only to realize that their size 20 must have been meant for a husky 10 year old and not a grown-ass woman with breasts and hips. And if you happen to find a retailer that does offer “extended” sizing, chances are that they just blew up an outfit like a marshmallow in a microwave without any thought to proportion so that the size 8 woman gets a well-fitting garment and you get a trash bag.

With all that being said, who wouldn’t be uncomfortable throwing themselves headlong into a hike or run or spin class? Who would want to attempt a downward dog pose while worried their capris will split? Who would feel confident and comfortable moving their body and sweating in front of others?

Up until now, I refused to do jumping jacks unless someone was ready to secure all the jiggly bits in place with Duck Tape.

This summer, I really wanted to focus on working through my insecurity of being a literal hot, sweaty mess in front of other people. Naturally, I signed up for a 10k on August 28th (The Philly 10k) to force myself to run through the summer – a time when many Northeastern US runners slack off significantly because of heat advisories and crippling humidity.

Summer smashed into Philadelphia this week. I am already dreading July. We went from cold and rainy to 90 in the span of a week. I completed my first 10k training run (following the Hal Hingdon novice plan) today with an easy-peasy 2.5 miles at 0900 when it was already 77 degrees. I wouldn’t call myself a trail runner, but I much much prefer a good trail to a sidewalk or road. The trail has the added benefit of a lush tree canopy that prevents the sun from bearing down on you as if you’re a sunny-side up egg egg in a cast-iron skillet. The trail also provides fantastic scenery and enough flowery Honeysuckle perfume to ensure that I am not focusing on the body odor that must surely be emanating from every pore.

It was a sweaty, sweaty run. There was also very frizzy hair and cheeks so red you’d think someone had been chasing me. It was also a great run. I changed my intervals from 3:1.5 to 2:1 and felt that my run:walk transitions were much smoother and my pace got a wee bit faster.

IMG_2725

I relish the sweat now. It’s a badge of honor.

I just make sure to wear one my trusty hats to keep it all out of my eyes.

 

The Things In Our Head We Never Say

Let’s talk about those things in our heads that zip along our neural pathways.

The things we never talk about.

The things we do in secret moments.

Things that cause regret and self-loathing and self-flagellation for days afterward.

And when I just can’t get those thoughts out of my head it feels like my mind is a pinball game being played by someone else – that little silver ball ricocheting over every emotional sensor and lighting it up like the night sky on the 4th of July.

“Why did I do that!?” “Ugh, I hate myself” “So ugly” “So fat” “You can’t do this” “That was a TERRIBLE run” “You’ll never get better”.

If you’re a woman (or a man, but I can only speak from the female perspective) in the 21st century who is struggling towards some sort of goal, I do not have a doubt that there are times when you’ve been inches from throwing in the towel and re-embracing every bad habit that you were trying to purge from your daily routine.

For me, emotional binge eating is the rabbit hole that leads through twisting caverns to the angst-y thoughts and feelings above. There are many things that can trigger this primal NEED to eat something sugary (usually, almost always, unless the dairy industry goes belly-up — ice cream): a busy, stressful day at work; good news; bad news; those moments when I remember that my dad is dead (because after 6 years you just sometimes really kind of forget that it ever happened); being awake late at night; accomplishing something. Really, there are just a myriad number of things that can pique the desire for self-soothing with sugar.

This week, the rabbit hole involved a particularly long fall with a hard thud at the bottom. The specifics are not particularly important but, for the first time in several months, I actually gave in to the beckoning finger of my weakness. The call is ever so soft, like the hiss of a serpent’s tongue just beyond your ear. It is not loud, but it is persistent. There was ice cream AND cookies AND pizza. I didn’t meal prep and plan ahead. I didn’t get my usual days of exercise in.

And here is where I think the root of the problem lies:

BAD RUNS.

You know what I’m talking about. Those days where you feel impossibly slow and uncoordinated. Like a gumby doll that is trying to move like a gazelle.

In the running community we tend to all shamelessly ask about pace and PR’s and long runs and mileage. As a new runner, my top 3 concerns are 1) getting it done 2) not injuring myself in the process 3) being consistent. At this point, I could care less about my miles per week or my pace per mile. I’m only running 3-4 miles – enough to complete my October 5K. My main priority is cardiovascular and pulmonary endurance – ensuring that my body is well conditioned enough to complete the race without face-planting on the pavement somewhere in the middle.

But I let the chatter get to me. I started comparing myself to everyone else.

When I started experiencing numbness in my left foot during runs, I FREAKED out. It slowed me down and I had to walk for portions of time which affected my splits and made me feel like a total failure. So, naturally, I started skipping some runs because I was afraid my foot would go numb. And if my foot goes numb, why is it going numb? Do I have some unknown neurological or orthopedic problem? Did bedside nursing ruin my back? Will my foot always be numb when I run? How is it that I’ve only lost 30lbs!? Well, of course my foot is numb; I’m still so fat!

You see what I mean, it’s a vortex of ridiculous thinking that ends in self-loathing and sugar binges.

This morning I woke up after a busy work week of seeing dozens of patients and gave myself my “snap out of it!” pep talk. I reflected on all that I have accomplished since I began this journey in January. I have exercised more and more consistently than at any other time in my life. I started practicing yoga – something I have been scared of doing for years because of my lack of flexibility and bodily grace. I went to the City Fit Girls FitRetreat and met beautiful, strong women of all shapes, sizes, abilities, and backgrounds. I finished my Master’s degree in Nursing, became a Nurse Practitioner, and started a new job. I adopted the most adorable senior dog!

And those are the things that matter. How fast or how far I run are a drop in the bucket and are really not even accurate measures of the person that I am. Emotional eating will always be a struggle for me, but I continue to hone my ability to spot my triggers, recognize warning signs of impending doom, and skirt those smooth-talking sugary serpents. The best thing about this life is that the sun will rise to warm a new day, a day during which you can just start over so to speak. I can’t undo a bad day, a bad week, or a bad month, but I can make different choices going forward and get back on my proverbial horse after falling off.

Health, wellness, and weight loss don’t come effortlessly. I think it’s important to give a voice to the things we struggle with, to speak those thoughts in our head that we think no one else has. There is safety in numbers. There is also acceptance.

If you have also been struggling with a personal goal – keep on, be persistent. Revel in every accomplishment.

One of my favorite quotes is from Rainer Maria Rilke and I think it is quite applicable in times where we lose faith in ourselves:

“Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final”.

Lastly, a bit of cute to get you through. My Lhasa Apso, Chappy. He is somewhere between 13 and 15 years old.

IMG_0868