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Let me preface this by saying I know runners come in all shapes and sizes. I know that everyone who runs, no matter how far or fast, is a runner. I know that I should not discount my efforts or achievements, or begrudge myself for not achieving what I think I ‘should’ or ‘could’ be able to do. I know shouldn’t compare myself to others. I know, I know, I know.
But let me tell you this: I am 5’8” and 172lbs. Running at this weight makes me feel like a slow-galloping Triceratops. Or perhaps a waddling Stegosaurus. My strides feel funny - short, choppy & slow. My knees hurt more. My ankles and my feet feel awful. Things I did not know were possible to chafe are being chafed. This isn’t to say that at 138 I felt like a sleek gazelle, or at 155 I felt like California Chrome; I struggle with confidence at any weight. But at 172 I feel the worst I’ve ever felt, physically and mentally.
I have only been this heavy once in my life - the winter of 2002-03 - when, as a sophomore in college, I was subsisting solely on “quesadillas” (aka bag cheese and Frank’s Red Hot nuked in a tortilla, dipped in sour cream) and beer. I hit the gym that winter and lifted during my offseason and ate vegetables and went into rugby season that spring a few pants sizes smaller and much more confident.
I, however, am no longer 18 years old. Weight does not slide off me like it used to. During the last 6 months I’ve concentrated on running, putting in more miles than ever. And yet, I’m fatter. Historically, my homeostasis has lied somewhere between 145-155lbs. When I hit 160 last year I didn’t worry, I was lifting and I know muscle weighs more than fat. My scale’s batteries died and I stopped weighing myself. And then my clothes didn’t fit.
I’ve watched my diet, cutting out burrito and burger lunches in favor of packed salads or soups. I cut back on drinking. I get enough sleep. I drink a lot of water. I had my thyroid tested. I switched birth control. And yet, the fat remains. I talked to my doctor and she sighed at said “well, you turned 30” as if that was the explanation, and that I needed to accept it. Stubborn and resilient; my fat has remained for the last 6 months.
Here’s the thing about being a fat girl who runs: you don’t want to run, because it feels terrible. Your body hates running because it hates pulling around the 30 or so extra pounds you’ve somehow piled on, probably because you eat lunch at your desk and work 12+ hours a day and are so stressed out that you spend your weekends immobile watching television on your laptop because you cannot handle interacting with humans anymore. Your clothes fit weird, if at all. Things feel icky. You tire easily. You’re self conscious. And you hate yourself because you don’t want to feel like this. Because you want to be outdoors more than anything; you want to see friends and be on trails and enjoying your life. Running should be fun. It should be an escape. It should be the way you feel better. You should not feel disgusted every time you see yourself in the mirror. The thought of putting yourself through the horrible self-hate shame cycle every time you want to exercise is exhausting, so you just stop doing it.
I look at myself in my running singlet and am completely abhorred at my reflection. I don’t know who I’m seeing - she’s some chubby idiot who is pretending to be an athlete. I wonder who in the hell can’t fit in spandex shorts because they are spandex for crying out loud but my fat likes to gather at my belly and the spandex likes to join the party somewhere below my belly button. I see someone who doesn’t work hard enough, who doesn’t deserve the jersey they have on, who is probably going to give up and walk at some point, and who will be so embarrassed at their pace that they won’t upload their run to Strava because they don’t want anyone to know how horrible and pathetic they are. The girl who has finished 3 marathons, and is embarrassed about all of them.
The fat girl who runs is self-defeating; she lacks self confidence; she is so sure she’ll fail that she can’t see the value in trying. I hate being that fat girl. I don’t see myself as a quitter, but when I look at my running career I can’t help but see A Fat Girl Who Keeps Quitting Running.
I wish I could be at peace with being a fat girl who runs, but I haven’t found it yet. I want my thighs to stop rubbing together. I don’t want to have to take 2-3 days off exercising because whatever spot (armpits? thighs?) have chafed so horribly (despite applying lube/glide) that it’s too painful. I want my body to stop feeling like its on the verge of collapse before I even hit the first mile. I want to stride out long and lean and feel like I’m actually running. I want to see a photo of myself mid-stride and be proud of what I look like. I don’t want to cry when I run because I feel desperate and defeated.
I know this isn’t a thing that others can fix. I didn’t write it as a plea for help or to ask others to pity me. I wrote it to acknowledge it, to name it, and to move on. To stop pretending that all is good, and to take a step to improve. I know that I have to fix it within myself, that no one can do it for me, that I just have to get out the door and keep trying. That I have to keep being the Fat Girl Who Runs until I’m proud of it; until I’m the Chubby Girl Who Runs; until I can just see past my size and accept myself as The Girl Who Runs.
I don’t want to run. I don’t want to write. I don’t want to take out the garbage. I didn’t want to wash my hair, so I cut it off. I don’t want to eat salads or drink water or paint my fingernails or put on makeup. I don’t want to talk on the phone or grade papers or go anywhere. I don’t want to lift or swim or go to yoga. I don’t want to change my sheets or do my laundry or buy new running shoes.
All of these “do not wants” will make me feel better; I know I’m just self sabotaging. I know I cannot exist on soups and IPA and books and solitude. I know that just going, just doing, just running… it’s necessary.
But for now I have a copy of The Autumn of the Patriarch and some Old Rasputin Imperial Stout and that’s just dandy for me.
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