Fat Girl Running

As most of you know, I’ve been on a long weight loss journey. There are some days I am fantastic and the diet and exercise fall into place without any difficulty. Other days aren’t so good, and it’s a struggle not to shove every edible thing in my mouth. I can’t seem to nail down the triggers but I know the end result. I keep losing and gaining and losing the same ten pounds over and over. The internal war continues every single day and there are just times that I’m worn out and tired of fighting.

Logically, I know what I’m supposed to be doing. I do. You can’t imagine how incredibly frustrating it is when I don’t do what I’m supposed to be doing. It’s maddening. I should in theory, just be able to point my skis down the hill and GO. Just DO IT. Just GODDAMN DO IT. But some days, I just can’t.

I hate myself when I eat. I hate myself after I eat. I hate everything about myself on those days. I hate my weakness. I hate that I was at the gym earlier in the day and I’ve just erased a great workout with an over-abundance of snacks. Something breaks inside of me. I understand this and the self-doubt is slowly being replaced by forgiveness.

I’ve seen those stares I get at the gym in the kickboxing class. I’ve gotten to the point of shrugging it off. If you’re staring at my mass jiggling and wiggling behind the glass door while I’m throwing a punch and kicking my invisible opponents with these tree trunks I call legs, I feel sorry that you’re not in the room either enjoying the fruits of your own labors, or standing within range of my Amazonian combat unit.

With running (or more accurately described as “wogging”), I am slower to brush off the sideways glances and grimaces when I’m out running a trail or I finish a 5K. Those looks suggest that I have no business wogging my way from start to finish. Sadly, I’ve come to find out that there is an element of the running community that makes you feel like a lesser person for even trying.

So what do I do? I try to work even harder. Cull the weakness.

I want to get past that plateau. Couple some hilarious and elated experiences with running with my visits to the gym to work on strength, to kickboxing class, I tried to step up my game even further by joining a running club. It’ll be fun! No better way to exercise than to do it with others! It’ll be great.

I am the slowest woman out there.

Granted, I’m heavy. I’m just coming back from a muscular strain in my back, but after what happened tonight, I’m seriously just thinking of staying committed with myself by myself. I don’t want to go into too much detail, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt quite as defeated as when I left my “club” tonight and drove home.

I can deal with being the slowest, heaviest woman there. That doesn’t bother me. No one wants to run with the fat girl. So I pop in my headphones and I put one slow foot in front of the other. It doesn’t matter when I get there, as long as I get there. As long as I’m trying.

I lost the group tonight. I just couldn’t keep up and I knew going in that it would probably be the case and I was OK with being slow. I made adjustments to get myself back to the rendezvous point, I apologized, but I was still yelled at by the coach of the “pokey pokes” (Don’t worry, she assures the slowest of the slow, that’s where SHE started off too.) for going too slow. She was even more upset that coming back from her own injury, she had to go look for me when I lost the group. She then in a very crowded environment and in front of patrons berated me even further. I was also told that if I was going to go off and do my own thing, that I needed to tell her.

Thing was — I really wasn’t doing my own thing. I joined the group for a reason. Because I thought the team environment would be good for both stamina and morale. Well, my stamina might be getting better, but my morale is in the shitter. I saw the slow “what the hell do you think you’re doing here” elevator glance of the fit employee trying to hide the sneer as I walked by earlier on that night. I let it go but then to be berated both publicly and within earshot of the staff and patrons was just plain defeating. I left the place in tears.

I won’t be going back.

BUT I won’t be giving up either, but I will do this on my own terms. Following a program that is more suited to my pace. Repeating a workout because I’m not quite ready to increase mileage or uninterrupted minutes.

I will say though, any running program really needs to be cognizant of the heavier men and women who join. Simple fact of the matter is that they won’t be able to run as fast as their more slender peers all other things being equal. It takes strength and conditioning to move that much mass. It takes even more courage to get out there in the first place.

There was another larger woman who brought up the rear a few weeks ago. She was ignored. She hasn’t returned. Instead of hoping for the die-off so classes become more manageable when the “serious” runners cull the weak, perhaps running clubs would do better to quietly assess their patron’s needs and tailor a program to better fit their level of fitness, instead of sending home another discouraged person. I don’t know how ingrained this particular brand of running elitism goes, but my other caution is that if you see someone struggling, it very rarely takes more than “you’re almost there, keep going” to give that extra motivational push towards the larger goal.

As for me, like I said above, I won’t quit. I signed up for the Disney World Wine and Dine half marathon in November. My goal is not only to finish it, but to finish it well below the cut-off of 16 minutes a mile.

That’s gonna take strength, determination and courage. It’s gonna take staring down the naysayers, including myself and whispering in the mirror that no matter what anyone thinks, that I can do this.

After tonight, I may have to do it by myself, but by God, I will do it.

15 thoughts on “Fat Girl Running

  1. Kate, you’re amazing! Screw those people in the running club that would treat you otherwise.

    I’ve been dealing with some of the same issues in my weight loss progress. Last night I just couldn’t stop going back to the fridge and I hated myself a little every time I did it. I wasn’t even really hungry, just craving, and whatever it was I was craving I never found it. It’s something I struggle with every day. My weight loss efforts have more or less plateaued since Thanksgiving and I’m trying to get back into it. In June it’ll be a year since I started trying to get healthier and I’m behind where I wanted to be by this point.

    IMHO you’re brave for joining a running club and a gym. I know I’m not all that fast and I’m not as aerodynamic as the other people I see out there running, so I don’t bother running with anyone else. When I first went to the doctor he suggested I do something like run for four minutes and then walk for four minutes and repeat that cycle until I’d done 30 minutes worth of running, gradually building up the run times. After the first four minutes I thought I was going to die. I was embarrassed and ashamed and worried about what my kids would think. Running/jogging just wasn’t going to happen. This may not work for you, but I switched to an exercise bike for the first few months. We had a bike in the garage so I didn’t have to go anywhere and I could read a little while I did it. It was low impact, but I still got my heart rate up. Eventually I got bored with that and tried running again. The time on the bike helped, and I didn’t feel like I was going to die as much.

    I also think you’re brave for doing the 5Ks and signing up for the half marathon. I know I could do a 5K but I know I wouldn’t be anywhere near the front of the pack and that discourages me. I’ve thought about signing up for one of those warrior dash things too. I think it would be super fun, but I don’t want to look like a fool.

    If we lived closer to each other, I’d totally run with you.

    If none of the above is helpful, then just forget it. You’re on the right path, and that’s the most important thing.

  2. You are amazing and awesome. And I’m angry! I can’t believe that club leader treated you like that. You’d think running club would be full of people who wanted others to be as excited about running as they are. I hope you find some like-minded people to hang out with.

  3. Anne C. says:

    Count me in on those furious with that short-sighted woman. What a tool!
    I really wish we lived closer so we could run together periodically. I generally don’t hold with running with someone because I think it’s foolish to run to someone else’s pace, but last month I ran a 5K with one of my best friends (it was her first 5K) and interestingly, she ran a bit faster than me, but needed to stop for a couple breaks in the middle. It taught me that I probably could pick it up just a bit, especially on shorter runs and if I were kinder to myself about stopping on longer runs. So good to get other perspectives periodically.
    And I am struggling with stress eating myself – plus my most regular exercise efforts occur when I can go outside and it hasn’t been an option to do that – so I’m carrying around more weight than I’d prefer. But I try to remind myself, as with most things, I am my own worst critic. So, know that I am with you in spirit, not just as encouragement, but also as someone encountering similar struggles.
    Love yourself. Focus on the people who smile as they pass you. They are thinking “good for you!”
    And don’t go back to that ridiculous club. They don’t deserve you.
    Much love.

  4. Must be something in the air. You know that I don’t care about much about my weight, but I do care about eating well and exercising. Lately I’ve been craving crappy food and I’ve been giving into those cravings. Even when I eat healthy food, I eat more than is good for me. For me that’s a sign that something else is going on. Now it’s just a matter of figuring out what that something is and addressing it. It may very well be the same for you.

    Kate, count me in with the people that are angry with the woman at the running club. Anne is right – they don’t deserve you. If they aren’t there to help and support you (and their other members), they’re not right for you. You are a marvelous, magnificent woman. As long as you are making progress in your running, you are doing well. Much like Anne, I wish we all lived near each other. I’m not one for running with others, but I would love for us all to take a jaunt around the Rose Bowl Loop. It’s only about 5K, but there are so many people of so many different shapes, sizes, ages and athletic fitness there – none of them judging. At least not that I’ve never seen. Because we all know that we’re there for the same reason: to get our exercise on. Perhaps there’s something similar in your area? I certainly hope so.

    Love to you, Kate. You’re awesome, in every way known to humanity. Don’t ever let anyone (including that negative voice that lurks in all of us) tell you otherwise.

  5. Thank you so much for the lovely words of encouragement and sharing things that are important for each of you. I know we each have our own struggles, but it warms my heart that each of you brought something different to the table of good vibes! It made today better, my running shoes are on and I’m going to enjoy it while I can!

    Hugs to each of you.

  6. It’s taken me about 4 weeks to get to week2 day1 on my Couch to 5K program. But, I haven’t given up. I find our online group of friends tends to be incredibly helpful. Especially on MyFitnessPal. It’s one of the few online food things that I still find useful (although I admit I don’t use it like I should).

    I often have Dory’s song in my head while I run. “Just keep running, just keep running, just keep running, running, running.” I think Ellen should record herself saying that for motivation on those C25K apps. 😀

  7. Anne C. says:

    Makes me wonder if we couldn’t create our own little online running club. Obviously it’d be tough to run together (at least until the invention of the affordable teleporter), but we could post our successes and failures in a safe environment and get encouraging feedback. Hmmmm…

  8. Ooh, Kate, you should download the Zombies, Run app! Anne and I are both on it and we’re connected on the website. Let’s evade zombies and collect supplies together! (Shawn, you and Matt, too.)

    • I tried the Zombie app, and really didn’t like it at all. I didn’t “get” it, as there was a really long narration. Was I supposed to be running? Was I supposed to be waiting to run? Also, I like to listen to books when I run, so zombies trying to eat me interrupts… 🙂

  9. You are doing a great thing. So what if you are a slow runner? Slow is better than not running at all. We (on the interwebs) are rooting for you, and you are beautiful no matter what speed you run! I highly recommend the blog/website priorfatgirl.com, it’s a very supportive community and recognizes the struggle for what it is. You can do it!!

  10. First: what everyone else said. The “leader” or “coach” should very obviously not have been in that position. None of us our training for the Olympics–we’re trying to take care of ourselves. There is zero call for cruelty with that.

    Second: I continue to admire you for your commitment to your health. Yes, it’s hard, but you’re worth it.

    Third: There are a ton of social fitness sites that might help you add in that social aspect. The bad thing is you can’t easily exercise with a virtual friend, when they live hundreds of miles a day. The good thing is that you can still allow yourself to be motivated and cheered on by others.

    I recently gave one of my old pedometers to a co-worker, because we were talking about being healthy and moving around. Now I can tease him about whether he’s walked enough, and encourage him on days when he needs encouragement.

    Essentially, I think I’m trying to say that most people aren’t assholes. So ignore that idiot and find a group that works for you.


  11. Capt. Picard's daughter says:

    Kate —

    I am forwarding this to a friend who coaches a couch-to-5K program just so she can see how she’s totally doing it RIGHT. I wish you lived near me so you could join her group, because the experience you had was SO WRONG.

    I used to run, and I hope to again someday, and I just want you to know that REAL runners are rooting for every single person they see out there with them. There’s nothing more amazing than running in a race — no matter what length — and seeing all the other runners around you and hearing everyone encourage everyone else. That’s what real runners do.

  12. Jason Fryer says:

    First Kate, I think you’re beautiful in so many ways. Please don’t feel like you’re a failure for fighting with those ten pounds. It’s only a war, if you make it so. I think far too much emphasis is placed on weight, and it’s undermined the psyches of truly exquisite people.

    Second, people like this running leader certainly do not help matters. It’s decidedly odd, but I’ve found that ‘Runners’ and ‘Cyclists’ can be some of the most opinionated and cruel people out there. They’re so obsessed with their own perfection that they cannot tolerate perceived ‘imperfections’ in other people. You’d think that they’d want to help and encourage fellow health-conscious individuals. But it’s rarely the case.

    Don’t be disheartened, especially by others (fools, in particular). Just do what you think is right for you… because this is for you, no one else. Set reasonable goals and don’t beat yourself up if you don’t meet them. No matter what, you’re beautiful.

  13. Slobodan Zivkovic says:

    Hello, Im a big fan of you from clarkesworld mag, love your narrating voice and stories.

    I just wanted to join in the discussion regarding the topic of weight loss. Trust me you are not alone and i can relate with you when you say its a war. I have been fluctuating in my weight during the last few years. I have managed to loose it few times.

    I see myself as a food addict, and i approach it as such, an addiction. For me its emotional, it makes me feel good, and thats why its hard for me to stop eating because i am removing a part of me, a part of me that makes my life feel better. One thing that has helped me to control it is to just not take any ‘bad’ food into the house. That cut down my snacking by a lot because there is nothing to snack on lol. Also i do very good during work week, because while im at work my food is restricted by what i bring to the office, and i generally just bring some canned fish and veggies. Also i noticed that i always did better with my weight loss, and lasted more, when i just eliminated bad food, and did not starve myself, but instead just changed my habits. That is because when our bodies sense a lack of food it goes into a different state, a preservation state, where it stores all the food as fat and slows down metabolism (thanks evolution).

    You are not alone and a lot of people are struggling.
    Good luck.

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