Thursday, April 14, 2016

Fat Girls Don't Run

I'm 35, and I recently visited a cardiologist. My father died at 39 from a heart attack. My grandfather had a triple bypass in his 60s and dropped dead in his 70s. His brother died of a massive attack in his 40s. I've always known preventative care is important, and after changing primary care physicians recently, my new doctor thought it would be a good idea for me to have an EKG and stress test. Just to be safe.

I showed up at the cardiology office dressed, well, less like my normal self...sweat pants, a ratty sweater, a well-loved t-shirt, and no makeup since I thought I'd be sweating my ass off on a treadmill.

My specialist, as a Google search turned up, is well-respected physician. What the Google search didn't tell me is that he's also a sassmaster. After the EKG, and during a few minutes of talking over my medical history, he said the stress test wasn't necessary since I'm healthy and fairly young. My weight is the only thing working against me. As he flipped through paperwork, he noticed my LDL was 122. While my primary care physician and Web MD tell me this is suitably within normal range, the cardiologist said, "My normal is not Texas normal. My normal is South African normal where people eat plants and walk everywhere."

So there's that. I didn't bother telling him that despite my less-than-presentable wardrobe, I don't, in fact, drink bacon grease and I rarely eat fried food. Doctor Sassafras assured me that while I'm healthy I should be healthier and do 200 minutes of exercise a week. That's 200 minutes more exercise per week than I've done for several years now.

Rather than being mad that another doctor told me to lose weight, I took this as a challenge. I went home and did over 40 minutes of exercise for the first time in an embarrassingly long time. In fact, I've done 200+ minutes for the last two and a half weeks just as he asked.

I strapped on my FitBit, I got busy with the "real food" eating habits I prefer during weight loss cycles, and I decided to make this vessel carrying me through life the best it can be. After all, my number one motivator in all this is being among the living as long as possible for my family.

For most of my life, I've approached exercise from the vantage point of what I can't do. I can't be a mountain climber because there aren't any mountains. I can't be a swimmer because I can't afford to join a gym. I can't be a runner because I have bad ankles, I don't like to sweat that much, I hate huffing and puffing, and it will hurt, it's just not realistic, and everyone will laugh at a fat woman running. Fat girls don't run.

When I thought practically about what I wanted to do for 200 minutes per week, I realized I didn't want to buy special equipment, or not very much. I still don't want to join a gym. I know I like to see scenery passing by because I get bored otherwise.

And the answer was there. Like so many answers lately. Just try running. Just try.

For the first time ever, I'm not working out because I broke up with someone, or someone broke up with me, or I hate my body. I'm not fat-shaming myself. I have to start somewhere, and I'm starting here...with who I am now. I'm not waiting to be some other way. Some other size.

Couch to 5K is great because I need a plan so I don't overdo it, burn myself out, and quit. I need guidelines for what this process should look like.

With a kickass sports bra and some great running shoes in the bag, I've been doing the thing. The first week I was jazzed. Pumped. Living on the edge! Absolutely tickled with myself for doing this. For making up my mind and trying hard. It was a heady feeling.

Week two was much of the same but with some knee pain.

Week three has been a PAIN pain. More knee pain, some ankle aching, some waxing and waning motivation, insomnia that sucks the life out of me. But ya know what? I'm still showing up and doing it. I listen to my body. I walk rather than run when I need to. I run longer when I can. I get up from my computer and go grab 1,000 steps because I'm tired of sitting. I've accepted FitBit challenges with my family and friends. I rest from major exercise two days per week to recharge and let my aches assuage. I have a day here and there when I eat a rich, spicy pasta dish for lunch. I won't undo this work in one meal.

I've lost four pounds, which seems appropriately slow. Crash diets don't work, they're miserable, and this is a life thing. After all, it was over the course of a year of real food eating that I lost 40 pounds, which I've kept off, so this is the next leg of the journey.

This is a health journey. Not a weight loss journey. Not for me. I spent years hating my body. Hating myself. Doubting what I could do in every way. Doubting whether I was normal or not. In the moments leading up to a decision to run, I remembered how it felt when I was a kid and I loved being active. I was fat back then, too, but I was in pretty damn good shape from tumbling through the living room all day, dancing, playing, riding bikes. In high school I was the mascot...a fox no a giant suit made of carpet sweating off 15 pounds of water for every night of football. I remember feeling good about feeling tired. About being kind of astonished by what my body could do for me, and at the same time, not really having to think about it at all.

I want to feel strong again, physically, because I feel strong mentally and emotionally. There's no self-hatred left in me now...mostly just the determination to do and try and move. Move through life with purpose, strive for contentment, and be the best me I can be.

This fat girl is running. 

I have to mention a new friend and fellow blogger I've found to be so very affecting in this journey, even before I made the decision for myself. Tara from Running 'N' Reading and It's Tara Leigh, you are an inspiration with your honesty, heart, humor, and spirit.


  1. Andi, this is such a fantastic post! Good on you for going out there and trying. It's so true that the first step is always the hardest.

    I've also struggled with the "I can't" mentality. I especially hate huffing and puffing. But I recently got a job close enough that I could bike to work and I've been enjoying that daily exercise. Not having to pay for transit is great too. ;)

    Here's to being active and feeling strong!

  2. Love the honesty in this post! Kudos to you, Andi!! Running doesn't work for me (knee pain issues for me too) but I love taking walks with my husband and/or my black Lab! I also do yoga. Reading your post, I immediately thought of my blogger friend Brandie over at Brandie is a Book Junkie. If you're not already following her blog, I highly recommend it! She has gotten into running and getting healthy and is very inspirational in her transformation and journey! Here's her link:

    1. Lori, you are so sweet!! Thank you for thinking of me. :)

  3. Oh, Andi, I love everything about this post. I too have a history of bad cholesterol, diabetes and heart problems in my family. Running, eventually through Couch to 5K is what started me into regular fitness as well. It is cheap, there are always other people out doing it, it is a great way to be outdoors, and you can easily measure yourself against milestones.

    Now I run regularly as part of my fitness, though it is not the only fitness I do. It was just the right thing for me at the right time. And I now feel so much better about myself, my body, and my control over my health. It is such a great feeling.

    I am so proud of you - the first few weeks are the hardest, but it gets better and more enjoyable :). And then you have a whole world of other things you can do and enjoy, too!

    This is really long now, but there are a lot of videos on YouTube that can guide you and do not require a ton of equipment. I like Fitness Blender, Pop Sugar Fitness and Blogilates myself.

  4. Andi, I love this post! Its honest and real - which it makes it so awesome! You are a rock star and I think its awesome that you are focusing on your health. I've just started walking with my sister and even though I hate waking up at 5am, I always feel better afterward. Good luck! By the way, reading your post reminded me of my blogger friend, Brandie (the same one that Lori Bree mentioned). I think you'd love her blog - she shares about her journey with getting healthy and its really inspiring. Definitely check out her blog :)

  5. Yay, running! You can do it!

    When I started running, I was as out of shape as I ever was. I huffed my way up stairs. I joined a running program. It hurt so much. And, I will tell you there will be bad days, but eventually the good days outnumber the bad. Despite my swollen ankle and burning lungs, I stuck with the program. Now I run every week for health. I'm not super fast, but I'm still out there. I lift weights too. I think that's really improved my life and my running.

    But whatever happens with running, I hope you keep taking care of yourself!

  6. I always hated running, but I really like the galloway interval method. When I signed up for my first half, I had only run a 5K. It's a lot less painful and it's how I ran my first half marathon and then my first marathon.

    For half marathon distances, my current interval pace is 30/30, with 30 seconds of running, followed by 30 seconds of walking. It's a lot easier when you know you only need to run 30 seconds. Running intervals of any time certainly boosted my average speed on all my runs.

    There's a 24hr readathon on April 23, but I'll need to take a break to do a 14 mile training run because I'm running the Tinker Bell Half Marathon at Disneyland in early May.

    And although I spend a lot of time blogging about books, I started to blog about runs and exercise because sharing and recording it was the best way I could think of to keep me motivated.

    I always tell people if they want to run their first race, run it with me because I'm slow, but I have fun. Even if I'll never be very fast, it's a social, healthy activity and organized races are the best way to stay motivated for me.

    Plus, the running culture is warm, welcoming and accepting— not competitive or intimidating as one might think.

  7. Andi, I don't think I have the words to express all my feelings after reading your post. You already know that I think you're badass as fuck with this. I know what it feels like to hate your body, and deal with body dysphoria every damn day. I'm working on it, and I'm getting to the point where I'm talking about it, out loud. Definitely internet cheerleading you the whole way,my friend. :)

  8. Amen to all this! It was such a relief when I finally decided something very similar: I was doing this to be healthy and because it makes me feel good, and I didn't care what it looked like to others when I run. Once I made these decisions I was so much more motivated and started seeing some success. I am cheering you on all the way from CA. Go Andi! Go!

  9. I love all of this. I probably talk about running too much, I know, but it has been such a huge part of my tackling issues with anxiety and feeling out of control--which is my own health journey. I'd second the comment above about the Galloway method (my running group was just discussing this on our FB page actually... If you're interested, I can copy/paste their comments to read), and for the knees, chi running technique has been really helpful for me with a bum knee & IT band issues. I cannot wait to hear how this journey unfolds for you, and respect the hell out of your awesomeness!!

  10. Amen to all of this! (Except C25K which I'm still mad at for false advertising. You're made of stronger stuff than I am.)

  11. Ah, I talked about exercise last week! Hive mind!

    Once I changed my attitude toward exercise, I found what I *liked* to do (water aerobics, mostly) instead of what I thought I *should* do. It made a huge difference.

    I'm glad you're trying running. I hope it works for you!

  12. Awesome. I'm thrilled that you're getting out there and running. It's been about 10 years since I was a runner and I miss it like crazy. I keep thinking someday I'll be able to get back to it. No luck, yet. This old body does not like to run, anymore. I hope you love it as much as I did. Nothing beats a runner's high (and I truly miss the body that went with running).

  13. Great post, Andi!
    I'm with your doctor - you can't lower your standards only because other people has lower starndards.
    I remember once one of my uncles went to the doctor - he was overweight and drank quite a lot, and the doctor said please leave her alone because she had "read patients" waiting, meaning that when he stop eating and drinking that much and start doing exercise, he could come back again if he felt ill...

    As for the running part, well done! Of course everybody can run, according to your own strenght. Walking and running are a great exercise, and you'll improve in no time, you'll see.
    When I started running I was fit, but running has been always my weak point - I couldn't run more than 5 minutes, and now I run for an hour and go to races to have fun :)

  14. I am just uncontrollably proud of you. And motivated.

  15. Congratulations!!! And I've heard great things about the Couch to 5K Program. I always feel like having a race coming up keeps me more motivated than just regular working out.

    And - careful with your knees when you're just starting running...take it slow and gradually increase your speed and distance. Also ice your knees after runs. I learned this the hard way when I started running again after having my first child...and ended up with a knee injury and a few more months of no running!

  16. Girl. Inspirational. You make me want to go out RIGHT NOW and start the program. I have been thinking about doing it for a while now. This fat girl wants to run too.

  17. I also had bad ankles and thought I could not run. Guess what? I can! And so can you!
    Knee pain - I had that when I was training a few years ago. I was good while I was only running 5k/3miles but once I pushed past that I started to have some knee issues. For most people it's either their IT band or a lazy ass. I have a lazy ass. Literally. And so do many other runners. Cross-training and lots of squats helped. And some yoga. If you need suggestions, just ask. :)

  18. So, I've just reread this post and I'm now crying...again...for the second time. I'm just so damn proud of you and happy that you are taking this step to do something that feels right because YOU want to improve your health for the reasons that matter to you. Runners come in all shapes, colors and sizes; if you don't believe me, you should check out the participants in the largest marathon on Monday (it'll be on TV, somewhere). I run with fat people, skinny people, tall people, short people, young people, old people (for real old, like over 80) and anyone can do it. FYI, when my knee hurts I do hip/glute exercises that I was prescribed by my physical therapist; might help. He says that our bodies are great at compensating for imbalances (weaknesses in one muscle group are transferred to another area) which can create pain/inflammation in the areas that are taking on the extra work. You should email me - - and I'll send you the little video clips he sent me to use as examples. Love ya!

  19. You are one of the most confident, sassiest women I know, and I think that it is SO IMPORTANT that you share things like this because there might be someone out there who thinks they can't do it, that they must hate themselves because of whatever the issue is and this shows them that they CAN get there, they CAN be comfortable with who they are. Not everyone has their life together. Not everyone has had it easy. We are warriors!!

    And also that bit where you were all " 200 minutes of exercise a week. That's 200 minutes more exercise per week than I've done for several years now." made me dribble coffee down my chin as I tried not to laugh. So thanks for that. ;)

  20. I can completely relate, since I started my fitness journey this year too - not weight loss, just healthy living.

    I recently updated my progress for the first quarter on my blog - posting on a public forum has kept me accountable - I know that my accountability should be only to myself, but hey - whatever works, right?

    Also, I did C25K last Oct-Nov - SUPER helpful. All the best with your journey! :)

  21. Good for you! I have a strong family history of heart disease too and know I should be doing better. Good luck on your fitness journey!

  22. This is awesome. I love the reasons behind why you're doing this - for a long, healthy life. I'm a walker, myself. Have tried running, but it's just not for me - back pain, mostly. But walking does it for me. It makes me feel good and gives me a chance to recharge. And I don't need a membership to a gym; just some sneakers. Good luck and have fun!

  23. You are a rock star!! I bought new running shoes last spring and have actually run less than 10 mi in them. I need to copy your motivation and get myself out there - for my family as much as for myself.

  24. I've done C25K a few times from start to finish (and a few times not to finish) and I always feel good when I'm seeing the progress. I never saw a lot of weight loss with it, that's more my eating habits. But it feels good to make your body stronger. Great job, you!

  25. So, so happy for you! I'll be cheering you on.

  26. Andi, this is such an incredible and inspirational post. You are going about this the right way, and you're going to rock it! Attitude is what motivates us, and you have such a great attitude about it. I will be the first person to admit that it is hard, and it takes a lot of discipline and motivation to keep going. But it is so worth it! I wasn't a runner until this past year, and it has really changed my life. The health benefits alone make it worth every mile. I think it's wonderful that you're giving it a go and cheer you on!

  27. Go Andi!!! You are an incredibly inspiring person in a lot of ways, I'll just add this particular thing to the list. I've had a heart condition for my entire life, and as a child I was told I "shouldn't" run or overexert myself in any significant way. Notice no one said "couldn't" - I added that myself. I've tried running in the past but I usually burn out before I finish a program. What I'm trying now is steady walking - 40 minutes to an hour every day, on my treadmill, at a highish speed and incline, while watching a TV show. So far it seems to be working. Fingers crossed.

  28. Getting motivated is hard, but I think 'I'll show you' attitude is something I can get behind. Both of my sisters are runners and I am pretty sure the reason I never started was to be contrary. I have been meaning to give it a go - Thanks for inspiring me!!

  29. You are amazing! And so very inspiring!

  30. That's amazing, sweetie, you're so great for doing this. I'm finally keeping to an exercise regime (for health reasons too), which is more than I've done in my whole life before now. It's good I guess. A hassle, but a good-idea hassle, which makes it easier (for me) to stick to. Yay you!

  31. With a BIL that just had quadruple bypass and you as an inspiration for a "fat" girl, I'm amped to adjust to a new life style myself. Because you're so right, it's about being healthy and being there for your family, not about dieting and being shamed.

  32. Congrats on your journey! When I first got Lupus, I decided to get in shape (prednisone turns people into balloon animals--learned this the hard way), and one of my goals was to run a 5k. If you're going to have a Color Run in town anytime soon, I definitely suggest it. It was so much fun. And very family friendly *wink wink* Keep up the awesome work! :)

  33. Congratulations and good luck on the journey! Coincidentally, I just started a challenge to myself and my husband to eat more healthfully for four weeks. I've been indulging in chocolate and wine to boost my spirits over several months of being unemployed, but the weight gain has done nothing to boost my spirits!

  34. They sure as hell do. And they swim, do yoga, walk, get the picture. I have the C25K app but have never stuck with it. You've inspired me to give it a second go and happy for you that you've made the health journey. It's an investment in you!!

  35. Congratulations on your journey! I understand how daunting exercise can be. I too have family history of weight and heart issues. My doctor reminds me to stay active but somewhere between 2 and 3 years ago I developed a severe reaction to sweat and my own body heat. It was embarrassing to go from a heavy dance schedule 5 days a week to breaking out in hives after 5 minutes on the treadmill. I struggled for a while with the "I can't work out anymore" mentality. I've worked hard to stay active without causing a reaction that is dangerous to my health. You're only ever held back by the excuses you make for yourself. Clean them out of your head and suddenly there are lots of possibilities and opportunities to be active and healthy.

  36. I meant to post a comment when I first read this, but time got away from me (plus, I hate typing on my Nook!). I am so proud of you and wish I could get back to my running. I started when I was 11 and really never stopped until about 10 years ago. My knees just can't take it anymore and it really makes me so sad. I did most of my problem-solving when I ran and it always made me feel so healthy. Biking and walking are about all I can do now, and they just aren't quite the same as putting in a good run, but better than nothing, I suppose. Anyhow, after reading your post, I was so tempted to head out to the bike trail and try to run a mile! Keep up the good work!!

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