‘Body positive’ and obesity – weighing in to the debate

Quite a lot of the bloggers and instagrammers I follow consider themselves part of the ‘body positive’ movement. For those not familiar, this is about celebrating all human bodies, regardless of size and shape. There has been some commentary out there for a while about whether this movement encourages obesity and puts people’s health at risk and I read another comment about it this morning which got me thinking.

I’m obese. I have been for all of my adult life and much of my later childhood years. I have done the yo yo thing – losing various amounts of weight at various times and then, usually quite slowly and insidiously, putting it back on (although never making it back up to my peak weight). I spent a long time feeling bad about it and blaming myself and my lack of willpower for it. For the record, none of that helped. Whether I say horrid things to myself or not, my weight doesn’t change, only my mood.

The message I draw from the body positive movement is to live now and appreciate the body I have. I live in my body 24 hours a day, 7 days a week so I’m well aware of its flaws. However I also celebrate its strengths. I was only saying to a friend recently how much I’ve grown to appreciate my thighs, a relatively recent development since becoming a runner. They’re big and strong and I couldn’t be more pleased with them. They push me through long distances and up hills, keeping going even when my brain thinks they can’t.

I’m aware that my weight isn’t considered healthy on a range of current medical benchmarks and would definitely like to get closer to those targets. The body positive movement doesn’t discourage me for aiming for this and doing my best to work towards it. It also doesn’t convince me that I’m a healthy weight. But it does convince me that, whatever weight and shape I am, I can live now. I don’t have to wait until I’m a certain weight to run, wear clothes that make me happy or enjoy all the wonderful bits of life. I don’t have to apologise for my weight or how I look or wear clothes that hide my shape. I don’t have to use exercise as a punishment for eating certain foods and I don’t have to justify my food choices to anyone but myself. I don’t have to buy into media images of what ‘health’ or ‘strength’ look like and I can celebrate the things I achieve in this fabulous body I have.

Starting the year with a slice of gratitude

I’m starting 2019 with a grumbling achilles which was not in my plans at all. Last night’s walk around the neighbourhood was a slightly grumpy one as I wallowed in the fact I can’t run right now. I’m pleased to say that this morning’s walk had a completely different tone – wallowing done, I had a wonderful walk and spent the 5km thinking of all the things I’m grateful for as I start this new year:

  • I can walk. And walking is great, especially as I don’t have to think about where my feet are landing, how I can barely breathe and which bits might be chafing randomly so I can actually just enjoy the scenery instead.
  • This is not a permanent injury – I will run again soon and I’ll get that lovely surge of gratitude for being back at it. And get to again whinge about having to think about where my feet are landing, how I can barely breathe and which bits might be chafing randomly.
  • I love where I live. I have the choice of so many great places outdoors to enjoy the environment, all within a short walk or drive from my house. I have wetlands on my doorstep, beautiful hills visible from my backyard and a glorious beaches a short drive away.
  • I now have a running husband who is also experiencing his own injuries so he (finally) gets it and we’re able to support each other.
  • I’m part of a fantastic offline and online running community who are listen to me grumble about my injuries and help me put it all back into perspective.
  • The shuffle algorithm on my phone this morning was perfect – every song was exactly what I needed to hear and had me smiling all the way around my walk.
  • I have some great events to look forward to this year – new experiences and new goals to tick off.

Here’s to a 2019 filled with gratitude and, hopefully, some running as well.

IMG_20181020_112511_329.jpg

 

Looking back and looking forward

I swear the end of the year has snuck up on me this time around and I really can’t believe it’s already the end of December. Strava reminded me with their annual funky video that it was time to reflect on my running so here it is!

strava

I snuck over the 1000km mark in my running which I was happy about – less than last year but still feels like a lofty enough amount and something I wouldn’t have dreamed of a few years ago.

It has been quite an interesting year of running and one in which I’ve certainly encountered struggles. Completing the Dopey challenge in January with my first marathon was both an incredible way to kick off the year and a difficult one. After that, all goals seemed lacking and I found motivation hard to come by. I convinced myself to ‘just keep running’ and hoped my mojo would return which it did yet it really ebbed and flowed all year.

I had a couple of setbacks which were tough at the time (including 6 weeks out with a sprained ankle) but which made me appreciate being able to run when I was able to. The hardest things to push through have been the mental barriers – quite a challenge that running helps me keep my brain and moods balanced and yet is also sometimes the cause of the imbalance in the first place. I started then gave up training for my second marathon, deciding I just wasn’t ready to give it the time and energy it deserved. Yet.

Losing my Mum halfway through the year coloured everything including my running in both hard and wonderful ways. I’ve learnt that grief just does its thing and takes over when it wants to, sometimes leaving me unable to get out the door to run. And then other times, I wanted to run because I knew Mum would have liked that. It was funny that she was never a runner and it wasn’t something that played any role in her life but it had become something we talked a lot about in the last few years so I connect her with it and I know she was proud of what I’d achieved.

This all seems a bit flat but there are many things I’m hugely proud of this year – here are my highlights:

  • Completing the Dopey challenge and my first marathon. Seriously nothing has ever (and probably will ever) compare to that. I still get goosebumps thinking about it and it’s the thing that gets me through all tough things ever since – if I can run a marathon, I can do anything.
    wp-1515407369605..jpg
  • Finishing the Surf Coast Trail half marathon. It was the second time I’d attempted this beast but did it on my own this time, fighting both the demons in my head and those in my body as I left my stomach contents on the trail. Several times. So many reasons to give up and yet I just kept going. I can do hard things.
    20180630_124622.jpg
  • City2Surf. My second go at this event too but just as much fun as the first, if not more so. I loved having my husband there to share the weekend and a PB topped it off delightfully.
    20180812_103414.jpg
  • Barossa Brave half marathon. Every now and then, I like to do something that scares me, just to see if I can. And this scared me with its big hill in the middle and the thought of doing 3 loops of it. Without my usual running buddies. I loved absolutely every minute and smiled so much my face hurt.
    20181020_103505.jpg
  • Portland Winter Solstice Run. This was another one where I proved to myself that I can do hard things. I could have stayed in bed and listened to the wind and rain but instead I sucked it up and ran in all that the weather could throw at us. And loved it.
    IMG_20180617_192629_578.jpg
  • My running friends. I spend so much time running alone but, whether they’re with me in person or in spirit, they’re always there and always offering encouragement and understanding without judgment. When I am lucky enough to run with them in person, the kilometres fly and we solve the problems of the world. I wouldn’t have been able to complete Dopey without them and cannot stress enough what a better place my world is for having them in it. Some are in this picture but I extend this to my wider running family, some of which I only catch up with occassionally at far off parkuns but who still have a significant impact. As do those I’ve only met online in the two running groups that are a big part of my running life – their constant encouragement and advice boost me up.
    img_0460

So that’s my year. 1001.8km. 1 marathon and 4 half marathons. 34 parkruns plus another 8 as a volunteer. 11 more medals to add to my bling collection. And a whole lot of new and precious memories to add to the store. On reflection, I’m feeling very blessed and grateful for what the year has brought, despite any hardships. It all balances out in the end and the dips really do make you appreciate the heights. Looking forward to what 2019 will bring!

Inspiration and where to find it

Where do you find inspiration? This question popped up for me again the other night while watching the wonderful ‘Employable me‘ on ABC. The documentary is about young people who are looking for work and who also have a disability. After the show, someone on Twitter commented how he was unhappy at viewers calling these young people ‘inspiring’ – they’re just people who want jobs and shouldn’t be seen as inspiring for managing their disability and aiming for something everyone wants.

I do understand where he was coming from – the way that society views people with a disability is often either limiting or patronising. But I think that, for me, this puts the category of ‘inspiring’ on some sort of pedestal, a title only for those who have achieved global accolades and stratospheric heights. I find inspiration in stories of people who overcome the things that hold me back. They don’t have to be Olympians, celebrities or elite athletes, although some of those fit the bill. I’m as likely to find inspiration within my running family, in the wider running community or amongst others I know outside of running.

Turia Pitt is one of my inspirations, not for overcoming horrific injuries but for her attitude in the face of whatever life has given her. Her positivity, practicality and desire to live in the moment and not the past or the future is something I strive for.

Kurt Fearnley is another inspiration, for his attitude of determination and his complete refusal to accept limitations others put on him. That’s an attitude to emulate. His face in the last moments of a marathon are what I reflect on during hard kilometres of my long runs – that’s what strength looks like, pushing on despite the pain. I talk a lot to my students about him as he also embraces another admirable quality – being highly competitive yet demonstrating admirable sportsmanship and grace.

Yet not all of those who inspire me are public identities. Within my running family, I have just as many sources of inspiration. People who don’t give up and continue to aim for often ridiculously lofty goals. And then achieve them, despite potential barriers. People who continue to get of bed and face life, even when it hurts, physically or mentally. People who, despite putting their all into their own events, still have energy to spare to cheer on and support others.

And, interestingly enough, I do actually find inspiration in my own achievements. It certainly hasn’t always been that way but has come out through the big goals I’m achieved over the last few years. Sometimes it’s like I’m two people – one full of doubts and another who knows what I’m capable of. On the days I’m the former, I have to remember what I’ve done and how far I’ve come – that’s the inspiration I draw on to keep moving forward and the confidence that I will achieve whatever I set my heart on.

IMG_20180107_201529_688.jpg

2017 goal check in time

I know it’s only halfway through December but, while I have a spare moment, it seems a perfect time to check in on my running goals for the year, set so long ago that I’ve almost forgotten what they are…

  • Run 1000km during the year
    Done. Emphatically. So far, I’m up to 1138km for the year. With my current niggles, I’m not expecting to add much to that but it’s already a total that I’m really proud of.
  • Reach my 100 parkrun milestone
    Done. Another one of those milestones that seemed so far off then appeared out of nowhere. And celebrating with the launch of Torquay parkrun with friends from around the state visiting was perfect. The next parkrun milestone of 250 is going to take a while.
  • Sub 35minute parkrun
    No, but getting closer. My best time so far is a smidge over 36 minutes so I’m not far off. Having spent most of this year working on endurance, not speed, my parkrun times have slowed down but this will be a goal I’ll continue to work on next year.
  • Walk a marathon. Not an actual marathon, just the distance to prove to myself that I can
    No. The plan had been to do this before we signed up for Disney, just to reassure ourselves that we could do it. I’ve never been known for doing things in the right order though. In training, I got up to 37km so my first actual marathon distance (fingers crossed) will be on marathon day.
  • Volunteer at running events – parkrun and others
    Yes. I became a run director at You Yangs parkrun and am very close to reaching my 25 volunteer milestone. I volunteered at Barwon River run and Surf Coast trail marathon and thoroughly enjoyed both experiences. There is almost as much joy in watching and helping others achieve as there is in running it yourself and it’s definitely something I’ll continue.
  • Give cycling and swimming a fair go this year
    Not at all. My bike is still sitting, slightly forlorn, in the dining room. It resurfaced from the garage, was cleaned up and tuned and I took it out on the roads….for 1 ride. I think I’ve been for 1 swim as well. I certainly need to do some cross training and am sure one of these (or both) will be it but it’s going to take me a while to learn to love them. Or even like them. Right now, I struggle to be in the same room as them. Must try harder next year.

So, not a bad year all round. I don’t know whether I’ll have any immediate goals when 2018 ticks over as all I can focus on right now is healing my legs and getting to the finish line at Disney x 4! I fully expect to have some post-event blues after that as the training has been so intense and consuming that I haven’t planned or thought about what might come next. I’m not even signed up to any other events which is highly unusual for me. I know I want to do more parkrun tourism next year but that’s all that’s on the agenda at this stage. So watch this space 🙂

Setting big goals…..then smashing them

I set myself a really big running goal last year and didn’t achieve it, although I did come close. So I put it out there for another shot this year. To run 1000km in the year. And today, with a month and a half to go until the end of the year, I ticked over that magical number.

I remember it seeming like such a far off, almost impossible thing when I set it and, despite all the events I entered last year, I was still 150km away at the end of the year. This year, I have marathon training to thank for the increase in mileage – already looking forward to seeing my total at the end of December.

It’s also interesting to look at my running in general over the last few years. 2014 was when I started running consistently (there were some years of running prior to this but very sporadically). Great to see the generally upward trend and it already has me thinking about what goal to set for next year. 😀