Marathon Update: Different Dreams

I’ve recently joined some forums online about marathons, running etc. just to see what conventional forums are like and if there’s some benefit for me there.  I chose forums whose policies are cool with me lurking first.  I want to understand the conventions and community and gauge the level of fat hate/fat bashing etc. before I decide whether or not I want to actually engage. One of the things I’ve noticed is that the reasons for running that people often talk about in these forums are very different than my reasons.

The first idea is running to eat – people talk about how they run so that they can eat what they want, so they can eat a specific thing, so they can eat a specific amount of [insert food here], so they can “be bad” so they can eat “something sinful.” etc.

The cousin of running to eat is running to drink. Typicaly beer, though margaritas also factor highly.

Of course people of all sizes are allowed to choose to run for these or any other reasons, it’s interesting to me because there was a time when these were my reasons for exercising, and they are so far from my reasons now (predominantly cross finish line, get medal). It makes me grateful that I no longer moralize food, that I practice intuitive eating rather than calorie calculus, and that my ability to nourish myself or enjoy food or drink isn’t dependent on my run.

Next, as you might imagine, is the goal of running for body manipulation. The first incarnation of this is running for weight loss. Again as you might imagine, the boards are full of people who are having the “success” that we would expect in the first year, and those who are having the failure that we know is the most likely outcome 3-5 years out. It seems that as long as you aren’t happy with your body and you’re trying to lose weight you’ll be supported. I’ve not yet seen a not thin person in the forums who doesn’t talk about wanting/trying to lose weight.

The second body manipulation is for the attainment of a “runner’s body.” I’ve discussed before my frustration with the idea of a the dancer’s body, runner’s body, swimmer’s body etc. Again, these are choices that people are allowed to make. I definitely spent a lot of time, energy and money trying to use food and exercise to pull and stretch and manipulate my body into the way I thought it “should” look and reading these posts helped me realize just how grateful I am not to be there anymore.

Ever since I chose to be a Fat Activist and a Health at Every Size practitioner I’ve noticed that I have different dreams than a lot of people and that people have different dreams for me than I have for myself – I get e-mails and comments all the time about this, in one I got today the person said that she “understands where [I’m] coming from with health for every size” but that  “my wish for you is that your marathon training will lead to weight loss.”

I’m going to go ahead and assume that if you wish I lose weight then you don’t understand where I’m coming from because I’m coming from a place where we don’t wish weight loss on people who don’t want it. (And if Buffy the Vampire Slayer taught us anything wasn’t it that you shouldn’t make wishes to strangers?)

I don’t know if I’ll interact on the forums I’m currently checking out but this whole thing has made me super grateful for the Fit Fatties Forum and the people there who make sure that I always have a place to talk about my fitness goals from a weight neutral perspective, and very grateful for my hard-won relationships with food, exercise, and my body.

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12 thoughts on “Marathon Update: Different Dreams

  1. As far as I can tell, you can’t get a ‘body type’ you don’t already have. I can’t change the skeletal structure underneath.

    Guess we can’t easily get rid of misinformation.

    I’ll be curious if you get anything out of the conventional sites that helps you. Maybe some tips you haven’t found elsewhere.

  2. “(And if Buffy the Vampire Slayer taught us anything wasn’t it that you shouldn’t make wishes to strangers?)”

    Well, it did also teach us that sleeping with vampires leads to Very Bad Things.

    Oh, and I earned a PhD in advanced battle quipping. And learned that tweed is surprisingly sexy on the right Watcher.

    What? I watched it a LOT. I still watch it. And my heart still belongs to Giles. Happy sigh.

    1. I love the fact that a) Ragen can quote Buffy on her blog and b) there’s other people out there that get it 🙂

      Although Buffy also taught me that while it is entirely possible to slay vampires in high heels, most of the time comfy shoes are better 😉 And more importantly – that’s ok 🙂

  3. The “running to eat” part is a great example of why I have a hard time verbalizing my reasons for exercising, and why I’m very careful about what I do say.

    I’ve worked very hard at repairing my relationship with food, and I’m still not all the way there yet. Don’t know if I’ll ever be. Every day is a struggle to not fall back into moralizing food.

    On the other hand, my health issues are metabolic, and my body operates better with less carbs and sugar, and that does influence my food choices. And exercising? Well, that helps keep my metabolism closer to “normal” function. So yes, in a way, I am purely exercising for doughnuts. But not in order to lose weight — just because more exercise means I can widen my definition of what includes healthy fuel for my body.

    It’s even harder when people whom I choose not to try to educate (especially at work) praise me for weight loss or exercising or for avoiding “bad” foods. I don’t want to perpetuate stereotypes about how everyone can lose weight if they try hard enough, especially since weight loss was never my goal. So far I just try to choose my words carefully and change the subject as soon as possible. It does help immensely to be here and be around people who get it.

  4. I hear you. As a kid/teen I kept being told that I have a runner or dancer’s body…and I was usually the last person back from a run for field hockey. Don’t these folks know about the book/cover adage? It’s kinda depressing that they keep moralizing running as a (unnecessary) pass to eat/drink certain things. It’s hard not to grab people and shake the food moralizing/exercise=food mentality out of them!!

    I get well-meaning people who tell me that I should walk instead of run because of the “stress running puts on your body” and how it may not be sustainable in the long run.
    Walking is relaxing, running with music can create a completely “zen” state for me (not an easy feat with an ADHD brain!) Not sure of the “stress on body” comments are weight related, but it seems like the point is calorie burning, not actual enjoyment. I’ll walk when I want to walk…and I’ll run when I want to (or when I’m trying to catch the bus/train)! Ugh!

    This past week, I spent time with my boyfriend’s family on vacation) . We were in California as my bf’s sister is looking at grad schools. On the day I arrived, jet lagged and tired, we went to Berkley, trekked around and then we all went on a hike (before going home). We biked Golden Gate park, hiked Miur woods, walked all around San Fran, and on a beach in Santa Cruz. Muscle aches were the worst problem.
    I started to observe some of the ADHD medication’s effects on my endurance (I now realize why I can’t take them right before I engage in strenuous activity). Still, I could keep up with few exceptions. Even when I was “all done” I managed to have enough left in “the gas tank” to make it to my destination. Despite many well-meant offers to carry my backpack, I usually held onto it because it wasn’t a problem (of course, it’s only 1/6th the usual semester weight).
    I think they were impressed with my ability to keep up. A few years ago, I can almost guarantee that I would be really struggling from the get-go. The difference is probably that I’ve been exercising regularly for a year and a half, so my endurance and strength have increased.

    Increased endurance and strength> changing dress sizes!

  5. Eating more than most of people I know was a surprising bonus side effect to running and adopting intuitive eating, but never the reason for doing the thing. And yet when I say “I don’t diet/don’t believe in dieting,” people always nod knowingly and say, “Of course! Because you run so much! I wish I could do that.” And I’m all: *le sigh*

  6. *le-sigh* I can so feel that. Currently I’m training for my first marathon, and searching online for information is really difficult because 99% is just about what to eat or not or how to lose weight through running.

    And I’ve already stopped telling people that I’m training for a marathon because so very often I get the answer: “but why? You’re thin already.” *facepalm*. And when I try to explain that I run because I enjoy it, to deal with stress or (if it’s someone close) because it helps dealing with my depression, people tend not to believe me 😦

    1. I feel for you. And you could easily point out that the Olympic marathon runners are usually bone thin, but they run to win.

  7. I believe you.

    I’m the same.

    I run because I love it. Because of how it makes me feel: strong, capable, free. Because it helps me manage my moods and has banished the low-grade depression I suffered in my 20s. Because it brings me outdoors in all kinds of weather. Because it’s allowed me to get to know the cities and towns I lived in and visited — their streets and parks and trails. Because races have taken me to tremendous places with tremendous people, and the spirit on those courses made me feel like I had wings. Because running’s the form of activity that changed the way I feel about my body, focusing me on what I can do rather than how I look. Because I am now just three years younger than my mother was when her multiple sclerosis and MS-associated seizure disorder left her quadriplegic. I run because I love it and because I can.

    It’s a total fallacy that everyone who runs marathons can’t wait to tell you that they run marathons. It’s very, very rare that I talk about running to people who aren’t themselves experienced runners and don’t already know that we come in every size and shape and weight and finishing time. (We still talk about what to eat, but the talking focuses mostly on fuelling performance and avoiding Mid-Race Gastric Unpleasantness and how surprisingly tasty that Salted Caramel Gu is.)

    Once upon a time, when asked, I did sometimes give the “Oh, I run for beer/bourbon/brunch” response to inquisitive casual acquaintances/coworkers who’d shown themselves to be very Diet/Exercise Focused. Their value system reinforced, they would smile and nod, and I’d be out of the conversation without being sucked into that “Being Bad/Begin Good” diet bullshit or concern-trolled, Natasha-style, by those of them who favored yoga or CrossFit or Zumba or whatever else and were keen to tell me how much running sucks, is miserable, is so boring, is torturous, will wreck my metabolism and ruin my knees, and so on.

    Now? When the question comes up, which it rarely does, what I do is just give the simplest expression of the full truth: I run because I love it. They don’t believe me? I give none of the f*cks. They launch into anti-running talk? I shrug, repeat that I love it, and congratulate them for moving on from an activity they didn’t enjoy to something that they do.

    Happy training! Have GREAT and joyful first marathon. I was in your spot 15 years ago, and with a far sparser internet back then, I got my training information from Runner’s World magazine and books from the library — BOOKS! 🙂

  8. I have never been someone who loves running. Before I realized I had asthma, I hated the way I had trouble breathing. Boobs also make running uncomfortable for me. I have never felt even a twinge of that joy that runners feel.

    That said, I still enjoy seeing people doing something just for the pure pleasure it brings. Sometimes I wish I could feel that joy.

    On the other hand, I used to love riding my bike. *looks over at bike sitting on the trainer in the other room* Guess I know what I should be doing.

  9. Good luck, both with the training and with whatever you decide about the running forums.

    I have a friend who has basically stayed “in the closet” as a runner because s/he didn’t want to filter all the advice s/he would get from hir runner friends if they found out. S/he just qualified for the marathon s/he was trying for, so I’m wishing hir luck. (I hate running and walk during my commute under protest–I’m still waiting for someone to invent George Carlin’s joke sport of “cross-country ballroom dancing” 8)

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