Running as a former fat woman

I want to start this essay with a very important disclaimer: fat bodies are valuable, deserving of love, attractive, and not an indicator of someone’s health. The only reason fat bodies are hated is because of the social construct of ideal beauty, which is not actually real or tangible (unlike the discrimination and pain many fat people experience), and should be dismantled. People are fat and that’s OK.

With that said, as a former fat woman, I sometimes struggle with loving my body fully and completely, as it fluctuates and changes over time. I know that loving your body at all stages of life is a necessary radical act. If enough people do this, together, we can widen the narrow expectations that women are literally killing themselves to fit into. But, with cognitive dissonance being as natural as these standards are manufactured, I can’t stop wanting to fit a certain dress size, no matter how much I know it doesn’t fucking matter.

Between my senior year of high school and my sophomore year of college, I gained around 60 pounds. Towards the end of my junior year, I decided that I wasn’t satisfied the way I looked and wanted to change my appearance. So I set a goal, worked my ass off, and lost about 50 pounds. Seeing my figure transform into something that looked more like the body I used to know was exciting, but more rewarding was that I actually accomplished a really hard goal that I had set for myself. Like, for real, weight loss is really fucking hard. Kudos to all those who have done it, are in the process of doing it or are working themselves up to do it. Kudos to those who have opted out of weight loss because they love their bodies as is or they have other aspirations more deserving of their time and effort.

 

Since graduating college, I’ve gained about 15 pounds back, which is to be expected after months of cutting out all physical activity and replacing it with sitting at a desk for 40 hours a week. Do I still look good? Of course. Am I still awesome? Hell yeah. But do I feel disappointed in the weight gain because it is somehow a retraction to the “improvement” I had worked so hard for? You better believe it.

Last year, a friend and I decided to train for a 10k quarter marathon. When she presented the idea to me, a person who did not like running, I was skeptical of my own self-discipline to stick to the required training schedule. I knew I was capable of crushing challenges, but running (like outside and shit) is something I had never really thought I could commit to. But, when she suggested that we have a fitness goal that wasn’t directly revolved around weight loss, but rather, personal strength and endurance, I was sold. Plus, it gave us an excuse to carve out more time to developing our relationship. Girl power AND friendship!

Over the following seven months, we ran three times on most weeks. Our goal wasn’t to become zooming roadrunners, we just wanted to run a whole 10k without walking. We even made a cute team slogan, “Not Fast, Just Furious.” Later we added, “But also Fabulous.” On January 14, 2017 we crossed the finish line of the Louisiana Quarter Marathon, with our times reading 1:16:13. That was our best time yet. Not groundbreaking, but not once did we stop to walk. There were several times that I really wanted to, but it’s amazing how much your body can persevere with the help of encouragement from your friends and your own internal will power.

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So sweaty!

That day I loved my body. Sweaty and tired and still 15 pounds heavier than my “ideal”, my body was glorious. It kept running. It didn’t stop. It held up the weight of itself and propelled across 6.55 miles. It had done something I didn’t think it could ever do. I accomplished a goal I worked hard for. And all around me there were former, present, and future fatties doing it too. Believe it or not, bodies can accomplish great feats at all shapes and sizes, in all stages of life.

I’m starting to realize that my journey to self-love (which includes, but is not limited to, loving your physical form) is nonlinear. I’m never going to be able to reach completion and just stop working. Sure, I’ll have breaks, where the work isn’t as challenging, feeling more natural and effortless, the love pouring out of me like a rain goddess’ gift. But there will inevitably be droughts, where the work is exhausting and time consuming and infuriating. Rather than hoping that one day I’ll be completely satisfied with my body without reserve, a more realistic goal should be to willingly embrace those moments of self-appreciation and think twice about the negative, toxic thoughts. They may never die, but they can be weakened.

I’m going to keep up with my running routine. Believe it or not, I actually kind of like running now. I’ve also picked up yoga and the types of fitness classes I used to do in college. They’re fun, and challenging, and make me feel good. I’m also tracking what I’m eating, more so to try to get my undiagnosed IBS under control (shit is real y’all—pun intended). But I would be lying if I said I wasn’t weighing in every now and then, hoping to see my weight closer to a previous time in my life. Just like it’s okay to not want to lose weight, I think it’s also okay to want to lose weight too. As long as the process doesn’t involve self-harm or self-hatred, it’s your body and you can do with it what you please. But regardless of what happens with my weight, I know that I should love myself and my body and the things I can do with my body. I know that my body is a good body, because all bodies are good bodies, and all bodies are capable of great things.

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