I Look Good and I Do What I Want

a journey of loving my body and myself

good food: the pioneer woman cooks May 29, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mae @ 3:25 pm
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I like to cook. I continually test out new recipes from various sources, including Cooking Light (I subscribe, and some of the recipes are very good), Epicurious.com, and various blogs. One of my favorites is The Pioneer Woman Cooks. I couldn’t even tell you how I originally discovered her, but I have fallen in love with her unapologetically simple, rich recipes and her witty writing. She is liberal with her use of butter and foods that taste good, regardless of their nutrional profiles.

I’ve felt more free to experiment in the kitchen lately, now that I am not under any pressure to find nutritional virtue in everything that crosses my lips. The first of her recipes that I tried was Marlboro Man’s Favorite Sandwich. Its not my favorite thing on the planet, since I’m not much of a red meat eater (its just not my favorite thing, no health judgements are involved), but it is one of only a small number of meals my husband routinely requests. We add a whole container of sliced mushrooms to the dish, though, as we’re both fans of them and both think it improves the meat:veggie ratio in the finished product.

Last night, my husband and I went totally cowgirl and, since I worked late, he baked a casserole I had prepared this weekend and stowed in the fridge, her Chicken Spaghetti. I admit, its more of what I’d think of as “kid food” rather than “adult food,” but the drama I’ve been dealing with the last couple days has really gotten me down, and I was totally in the mood for some comfort food last night. Not to mention, yesterday’s lunch, a virtuous Lean Cuisine containing brown rice and stringy snap peas, both problematic for the band, and it refused to stay down. I ate it at about 1:00 p.m. and spent the next two hours gradually spitting the stupid thing up. What a waste of my life!

I prepped the casserole Monday night, using lowfat cheddar cheese, reduced fat cream of mushroom soups, and pickin’s (as my adorably southern husband would say) from the remnants of a roasted chicken we’d had for supper that night. The Chicken Spaghetti was actually much more flavorful than I was anticipating, since I’d been liberal with the cayenne, pepper, and added a little Tabasco. It was a lot like eating macaroni and cheese done up all Mexican-y. We both liked it, although I might make it with penne next time just to give it more body than the slippery, skinny spaghetti can deliver.

But, I was not done yet. I decided to give her Apple Dumplings a whirl, even though I am normally not the kind of girl that would cook with, or even consume under circumstances that didn’t involve a gun to my temple, a Mountain Dew. The real reason that testing this recipe was such a shocker for me was the two sticks of butter. Two, people. Twoooooo.

Honest assessment: ludicrously, sinfully delicious. I do actually think the two sticks of butter and 1 1/2 cups of sugar is quite excessive, as the liquid left in the bottom of the pan is plentiful and extremely buttery. Maybe even too buttery. I’d probably cut it down to 2/3rds of each item and keep everything else the same. I ate three of them, with lowfat vanilla ice cream. I am willing myself not to go look up how many calories is in 2 sticks of butter X (3 dumplings/16 dumplings). Please, no one tell me.

For a New Year’s Eve party we hosted last year, I made her Olive Cheese Bread, and let me tell you, people raved and raved. I actually made two batches and once the first batch had been polished off, I pulled the second from the oven, placed it on the dining room (acting as a buffet) table and nearly lost my hand when I didn’t pull it back fast enough, as everyone dove in face-first on the seconds. I love and adore olives and admit to snagging a slice or two for myself.

Her Roasted Beef Tenderloin: simple and delicious if you are into that kinda thing. (Hubby, yes; me, less so.) Her Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes were a similar hit at Thanksgiving at my table last year.

I have not yet, but have been dying to try the Penne a la Betsy (basically shrimp and a tomato cream sauce), too.

Five recipes I’ve tried, five that were all successful right out of the gate, and reminded me that delicious food doesn’t have to be complicated. And, reading her blog is a pleasure. She’s funny and writes conversationally, you almost feel like she’s a personal friend after a while. Aren’t those blogs the best? I have a couple like that.

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some progress May 28, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mae @ 4:37 pm

I am in a funk today because of some familial drama (with my father, not my husband) so am not in much of a mood to write.

Last night I made these open-faced cube steak sandwiches that my husband loves. They aren’t my favorite thing, but I make sure my helping is mostly onions and mushrooms and eschew the buns, anyway. Cube steak is not a particularly tender cut of meat, so it takes an extra bit of chewing effort (especially with my lapband) and about halfway into my supper, I realized I had no appetite for it. I just pushed my plate away and said, “That’s it, I’m done. I don’t want any more.” My husband, who is learning to respond to such pronouncements in ways that will help me, whisked the plate away to the kitchen. Gone. I savored my glass of red wine while he finished his meal, talking quietly, relaxing and trying to let go of the stress of the day.

Later I had a brownie and a scoop of lowfat ice cream because I felt like it. And it was good.

I have a friend that I met two and a half years ago when we were both new to running. She is fat, also, but has some thyroid problems, to boot. In the last two and a half years, she has gone from barely being able to run a couple miles to frequently participating in half-marathons and even a few triathlons. Her weight has gone up and done, as her doctors have played around with her medications and doses, and recently she’s been very slender and healthy, more slender than I’ve ever seen her. Well, in the last month or two she’s begun to put weight on again and has been a little down about it.

I chatted with her on IM and gently passed on some good ol’ fashioned FA wisdom. She was feeling crappy about needing to either lose some weight right away or get new summer clothes. I passed her a link to some adorable Gap ruffle skirts, that I read about on Shapely Prose a couple days ago (and actually ordered a few for myself). I told her I’m not a fan of shorts, that the elastic waist won’t complain if I go up or down a few pounds, and they are wicked cute to boot. I explained about how I feel that wearing clothes that are too tight is a subtle form of punishment– I was “bad” and “let myself” gain a few pounds, so I deserve a too-tight-waistband bellyache every day! She readily agreed. I hope I helped her.

 

my fat spouse May 27, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mae @ 3:26 pm

He’s really not very fat at all. On the scale of fatness, I am a fatter for a woman than he is for a man. But (thank the heavens) he is outweighs me, he’s much taller, and has a very large build. He has huge shoulders, thick bones, an easy muscularity he hasn’t worked to obtain. He’s a quiet, gentle, laid-back nerd that has been asked all his life if he plays football, and then, why in the world not?

He also has an enviable metabolism. He’s fluctuated about 80 lbs in the last couple years– right now he’s about smack-dab in the middle, 40ish lbs shy of his highest weight ever. To get to his 80-lb-loss low, he confined himself to two microwaved portioned meals (think Stouffer’s) and two cans of regular Coke a day, plus an hour’s walk, until he felt skinny enough (a couple months) and then he stopped. He’s incredibly good at pushing back his plate when he’s had enough, even though the man can put away an astonishing– and I mean astonishing— quantity of food when he tries. I’ve always admired his self-restraint at the table. He’s also not a huge snacker. I mean, he’ll snack occasionally out of boredom but when he’s busy, he goes seven hours from lunch to dinner with nothing in between with no complaint.

But, in the last six or eight months or so, he’s put on some weight. I can’t say for sure how much because he doesn’t weigh himself with any regularity. And, well, I also don’t care. But, he’s had to go 4 inches up in his pants, and a size up in his boxers and T-shirts. And he’s frustrated.

There are really good reasons for the gain, namely that his work is unpredictable and the last six months have had him sitting at home a lot.  Its stressful for him because his pay is tied directly to the amount of work he does, also. I think he is eating out of boredom, frustration, and simply to comfort himself. He also does tend to spend more time on his butt in front of the video games when he’s home and work really hard when he’s away, so that is a contributing factor too.

He has voiced his frustration to me and I have nothing but complete empathy for his feelings. I tell him he looks awesome (he does!), that the weight means nothing to me (it doesn’t!) and that I think maybe he is rolling all his “bad” feelings into one ball and calling that ball “I’m fatter!” and maybe he should try unrolling the ball. There are at least these things in there: He feels more attractive when he’s slender. He hates buying new clothes simply because he’s outgrown the others. He feels like he’s “failing” at keeping those 80 lbs off. He is frustrated at his work schedule lately, because he likes his job and wants to go be useful. He is frustated he’s not bringing home as much bacon as he wants to. He’s feeling out of shape and like he can’t keep up with me. He sees his father (350 to 400 lbs), with terrible knee and heart problems, hobbling around, in pain with every step, and fears for his own health.

I love my husband, so I tell him: don’t worry about the job or the money. You can’t control it unless you want to quit, and you don’t, so just let it go. We’re doing fine at this level of income (and we are). I tell him: the feeling out of shape is something we can work on, that will make you feel better. Let’s go ride bikes and hike and extend the daily doggie-walks. I tell him: your father’s health problems are not your own, and you can’t claim them as your destiny. Realize what genetic risks you have and minimize them: exercise, eat the foods that are good for your body (I’m not saying, eat those foods exclusively, but get in your fruits and veggies and healthy fats and vitamins), go to the doctor etc. Stop calling the belly fat the problem! An overweight, athletically active person with a diet full of nutritional goodness is doing the important stuff.

I don’t see the point in measuring his health (or encouraging him to measure his own health) by an arbitrary number on an arbitrary scale. I know that feeling good, bounding up a set of stairs with nary a wheeze, feeling the power of my muscles and organs working in concert on a hike or run or bike ride, and checking in with my doctor and passing with flying colors are much better indicators of health than weight is. My sister is severely underweight at just under 100 lbs. Her diet consists mostly of regular Coca-Cola, those plastic-wrapped snack cakes, and cigarettes. She can’t bound up a set of stairs with the same kind of exuberance and speed I can, at more than twice her weight. She can’t walk a blockat a brisk pace without breathing hard. Being slender does not equal being healthy. Being healthy is not about achieving a certain weight. It simply isn’t; I have personally seen entirely too much evidence to the contrary to believe this anymore. I am not going to let my husband think he can measure his health on the scale, now that I know that to be the case. I tell him to look at the things we know indicate health, and leave the belly-hating behind.

Basically, if you can’t tell, those are the things I am supposed to be telling myself. And goddamn if they don’t fly out of my mouth like Gospel truth when I say them to him, even when I’ve struggled to convince myself that those things apply to me, too. But it helps me to say them, and I think it helps him. Its funny, we’ve only been married two months, but every day of marriage is a new revelation to me about what it is and what it means. It means treating both members of the team as good– better, even!– than you’d treat yourself. Its loving both bodies and minds and souls. I loved reading, “Contempt has no place in a marriage.” Its so true. I’ve marvelled at the simplicity and completeness of that sentence. I can’t think of a situation in which contempt for a spouse’s anything would result in a positive effect on the marriage.

I love my spouse. I treat him and his body and his mind and soul better than I treat my own. And I hope that in doing so, I learn to love my body and my mind and my soul better. Because its my job now to protect and nurture and care for both of these bodies and minds and souls.

 

THIS JUST IN: fat people can ride bicycles May 25, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mae @ 7:06 pm

We had an awesome ride this morning. We rented bikes from a local shop which is situated right on a long, paved, relatively flat trail. We rode out about 6 miles, stopped for a picnic lunch, and rode back. My butt is sore and I know my quads will make their displeasure known tomorrow morning, but the experience was worth it. It was very exhilarating! Now my husband and I are seriously considering getting a couple of cheap bikes and doing it reguarly. Good times.

 

self flagellation

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mae @ 12:46 pm

I was raised by extremely critical parents. My stepmother resented having to raise me. I can only speculate, but I suspect that her resentment was borne of the struggles my parents had with limited resources. She had two “of her own” and two of my dad’s kids from his prior marriage to raise, and time and money was spread extremely thin. She couldn’t give her kids what she wanted to give them because she had to spend some of that time and money on my dad’s kids. So, she justified her resentment and her unequal allocation of resources by constantly judging me and my sister and finding us lacking. My dad, sadly, is (and was) an extremely weak-willed person, and whatever my stepmother decided was truth, he went along with, because he was not interested in fighting with her or even disagreeing with her. He never rocked the boat.

I have a story to tell, and I can’t really tell it without the bragging part, but I think its highly illustrative of
how ludicrous their attitudes about me were– they criticized nearly everything about me, not just about my weight. I was always cut down for being fat, lazy, and clumsy. I was told I was humorless and dull because I didn’t laugh along with the rest of the family when she said something hurtful disguised as “only teasing.” My stepmother was a much smaller-framed woman than I am, and she used to marvel at my disgusting tree stump ankles and thick-boned wrists: things I couldn’t change no matter how much weight I lost.

And yet, sadly, I always hoped that someday I could convince her and my father to accept me and love me. Well, they always told me that they “loved” but didn’t “like” me, since in their screwed up minds, loving a child meant providing the things that would keep the Department of Child and Family Services from opening a case file: feeding, clothing, housing, and refraining from beating me. I continually fantasized about ways in which I could impress them and change their minds about me.

I was always a bright kid, even though I didn’t realize it and didn’t receive a lot of parental encouragement. I brought home mostly A’s and test scores in the 99th percentiles. When I was in the 11th grade, it came time to take the SAT, so I did, and brought home a 1590. For those who didn’t take it, that is 10 points lower than the highest possible SAT score, which is 1600, and is extremely high. That is a score that anyone could be proud of. I remember my heart fluttering in my chest as I feigned nonchalance when handing the score to my dad.

He looked at it, and said, “1590? Which problems did you miss?”

“Two analogies and one reading comprehension question.”

“Well, what’s your problem with analogies? You should work on those, take it again and get a perfect score.”

I was devastated. I knew that if I took the test again, it was more likely that I would get a lower score than a higher one. I also knew that, in the eyes of college admissions counselors, the 1590 would reflect just as favorably upon me as would the 1600. I so badly had wanted that number to mean that I was good in some way. I figured, the number couldn’t lie. My parents couldn’t deny that at least I was smart and that was something to be proud of.

Additionally, amusingly, I got grounded a week or two later for having the audacity to ask my stepmother’s daughter (older than I am by three years) what she got on her SATs when she took them– knowing/hoping I could then say mine was higher, admittedly, because I so desperately wanted to prove to myself and my parents that I was worthwhile– which my stepmother decided was “deliberately hurtful” behavior.

My parents are not in my life right now. I have been out of their household for 11 years now, and in that time, we have have gone our separate ways, reunited, and gone our separate ways again. I can’t get over the fact that my interactions with them have a huge net negative effect on me, because I am not strong enough to withstand the hurricane of their constant criticisms. So, right now, I get to enjoy a mental space that is not constantly bombarded with their negative judgments.

Sometimes I think maybe I became so accustomed to their criticisms that that became the “normal” state of mental being for me. I was never very good at dieting, but I was spectacular at the self-flagellation when the first dieting rule– no fat, no carbs, no dessert, no sugar, no meat– was broken and everything was ruined and I’d thrown away any chance at the life of slender perfection I’d always dreamed of. In fact, I’d developed a routine of getting on the scale every morning and running through a mental script of, “You are fat, lazy, and disgusting. What is wrong with you? You have no discipline. You don’t even really want to be thin. You are some kind of extremely sick-in-the-head if you want to be so fat and disgusting your whole life. And its obvious you want to be because you obstinately refuse to do what you know you are supposed to do to make those numbers on the scale go down.”

Writing that down, I realize who the original author of that script is, and here’s a hint: it wasn’t me.

Part of giving up dieting for me is giving up the negative mental self-beatings. I know some people can– and do– accomplish a lot with a diet without hating on themselves, but for me, the self-hate and the dieting mindset are (probably inextricably) linked, because of my childhood. Every time I get on a scale and tell myself I am a bad person because of those numbers, I am performing a practiced little skit that I have done hundreds or maybe thousands of times since I was eight years old. I cannot imagine dieting without the internal punishments– what would keep me from breaking the rules all the time, if not the fear of one more piece of evidence on the staggering pile of evidence showing that I am fat, lazy, disgusting, undisciplined, and sick in the head? I had a lightning-bolt to the head moment the other day when I realized that part of the appeal of dieting for me was the excuse to engage in near-constant self-flagellation, because hating on myself is something that seems like the normal state of being for me.

This morning my husband I am are going to go rent some bikes, fly down a flat, beautiful trail, and have a picnic lunch. I will be good to my body and my mind today. I hope these days of no weigh-ins are allowing those memories of scale-torture to be covered up with a thin layer of dust. I hope soon those memories will be shoved into a back corner, bricked in with storage boxes, and allowed to atrophy. I hope my new memories of saying, “Mae, you did a good job today. Awesome work on that bike,” and “Wow, what a fabulously nutritional meal. Good job for eating what makes your body run well,” will become the practiced skits, the normal state of mental being for me.

 

so gross May 22, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mae @ 11:24 am
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In case anyone thinks that the lap band I have is a net positive rather than a net negative (still paying off that debt!), allow me to share a little bit of this morning’s fun. Warning: its pretty gross.

I am recovering from some pretty painful dental work on Monday afternoon. I couldn’t sleep so I got up early to come to work. I am wearing a white shirt with blue and black stripes from Target (clearance rack) that I really kind of hate. Anyway, I stopped at Starbucks on the way in because although I have coffee at work, I felt like I needed the strong stuff after my semi-sleepless night. I got my skinny cinnamon dolce latte and a cinnamon scone. I’ve been at my desk for about 45 minutes, consuming both very slowly as I am very “tight” in the morning (due to the lap band) normally.

For some reason I am extra tight this morning, possibly because of PMS. In any case, one of the side effects of the lap band is called “productive burping” or PBing. What happens is your small pouch up top gets full, and your body senses it is having trouble getting the small pouch to empty through the stoma (small tube connecting to the stomach) and so it sends up either some gas or some mucus from the stomach, to “help” dislodge things. Normally this feels like coughing up a little something into my mouth, which I then either swallow if its a small amount and not a very powerful PB, or spit it out, usually into the toilet.

I’ve had a few instances where particularly powerful PBs made for a stressful dash for the bathroom; however, since I’m fully healed and more used to the band now, its unusual for me to deal with anything more than an occasional, small annoying PB.

For whatever reason, this morning, somewhere about 2/3 of the way into my latte, I had the audacity to take too large of a sip of coffee. After a few short moments, it came back up in an explosive way, and I basically yakked thick, coffee-colored mucus onto the front of my mostly-white shirt.

At work. Luckily its early and I didn’t do it in front of anyone.

Dabbing with water and those insta-distintegrating industrial papertowels really, really isn’t effective on coffee-mucus on a white shirt.

Sigh.

I get to wear this all day.

I am so glad I spent $10,000 for the ability to vomit on myself in public on a regular basis.

Also, nearly every sentence in this essay, My Secret Body by Anne Lamott makes me go “Goddamn!” It feels so real that I almost believe that that is my story when I read it. A quotation:

I ate frosting and Cheetos for weeks. Also, cookies that a local bakery made with M&M’s instead of chocolate chips. I’d buy half a dozen and keep them on the kitchen counter. It was terrifying. It was like knowing there were snakes in my kitchen.

That is my kitchen! My house! Since my husband came home we have had dessert nearly every night– brownies or ice cream sundaes. And he’s looked at me strangely, wondering when the other shoe is going to drop and I’m going to start blubbering about calories and how I hate myself. I look at him strangely, daring him to tell me I “can’t” or “maybe shouldn’t” have a sundae. But he is a kind and gentle man, one who is well-versed in the atrocities of control that I was subjected to as a child. He knows that telling me, “Maybe you shouldn’t have that ice cream,” is maybe as hurtful as hitting me would be.

So, I get my sundae. I take it back to the house, where strangers can’t see me eat. I eat it, looking at him out of the corner of my eye. He waits patiently for me to stop looking at him and start looking at myself because I am the only one who decides what I do and don’t eat.

 

self-fulfilling prophecies May 19, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mae @ 4:46 pm

First, I start with a little story from my illustrious (snort) past.

I was always an athletic girl, by which I mean, I enjoyed sports and was reasonably good at the ones I managed to try. My parents never wanted to let me join any club leagues or even play on school teams because they didn’t want to/couldn’t pay for it, and didn’t want the added burden of having to drive me to games and pick me up. In the tenth grade, I convinced them to let me try out for soccer, as there was special “Activity Bus” that had been set up by my school which would take me to a school close enough to my home that I could walk back after the daily practices. For games, I had convinced them I had enough friends whose parents were willing to drive me.

So, I ran for about two months in preparation for conditioning (two weeks) and then tryouts (one week). I made it though tryouts and somehow managed to make the junior varsity soccer team, even though I was competing against much faster girls, girls who had been playing soccer in club leagues for 10 years. I had a very good “kick” and I was fearless, which made me a pretty good defense player. Playing defense meant my relative slowness wasn’t a disqualifier.

I played well enough my first year to make it to the varsity team the second year. I cannot overemphasize what a triumph that was for me. Being in the eleventh grade was no guarantee that I would be placed on the varsity team, it was strictly based on performance. I had competed against more slender, better-trained girls, girls I looked up to for their prowess on the field, and I had been chosen! I played first-string that whole season, too. I felt so good about myself and about my body. I was fit and as slender as I’ve ever been (mid-130’s). Even though my stepmother continued to chastise me for my disgusting, fat mid-130’s body, and even though she continued to try through various methods to force me to lose weight, I was at the lowest post-puberty weight I’d ever been, and at my fittest. By anyone’s standards, at the time I was a very, very healthy normal-weight girl, exceptionally fit, and there was nothing I needed to change.

But the summer between my junior and senior years, my parents moved to a new school district, and although I begged and pleaded to be allowed to stay at my original high school (I had several solutions for how to make it work, none of which are important for this story), they wouln’t let me. My new school was huge: instead of about 800 kids in my entire high school, I had over 1,000 in my class. I didn’t know anyone and my shyness was kicked into hyperdrive. When it came time for the soccer season tryouts, even though I was walking distance from my new high school, so the need for a special bus was gone, I was too self-conscious to try out. I was fat, fat, fat, and disgusting. Even though I’d spent that school year on a self-imposed “fat-free” diet of mostly fat-free pretzels, fat-free animal crackers, and marshmallows, and abused ephedrine, I hadn’t been able to break below 130 pounds. I was afraid to wear shorts in front of the slender girls trying out. I was afraid I would be too slow and my strong “kick” wouldn’t be valued or wouldn’t be that impressive against the other girls trying out. I was afraid of running the 10-minute mile test required to join the team and failing. I was afraid I was too fat.

I didn’t try out.

The next year, I went to college, a school with a huge network of intramural teams, which I also told myself I was too fat, too short, too slow to join, so I didn’t. I haven’t played soccer since, and though I’ve toyed with various athletic endeavors since then (running being the most compelling so far), I have enjoyed none of them with the passion I enjoyed my brief two-season soccer career. I have never regained the self-confidence and pride I had when I made the varsity soccer team my junior year. I have never again been impressed with my body and its performance the way I was back then.

I wonder now, if I hadn’t been under the impression that I was too fat to be a soccer player, if I would have stopped playing. If I hadn’t stopped playing, would I have gained as much weight as I had? If I hadn’t stopped playing, would I have built up my self-esteem more than I have in the intervening 13 years? Would I have had the confidence to try other athletic pursuits, would I, instead of turning to surgery, have filled my life with healthy things and loved my body for its physical prowess instead of hating it for refusing to conform to the crappy expectations of our culture?

I wonder if our society, and crappy parents like mine, don’t set up girls who are round, or stocky, or chubby to be excluded from a lifestyle that includes athletics. I wonder if we tell girls they are too fat for bathing suits, if they avoid joining the swim team or going to the gym to swim laps. I wonder if we tell girls their thighs are far too disgusting for soccer/basketball/softball shorts, so they never try out for the team. They assume they don’t belong, so they don’t learn to love sports and the feeling of a body performing well. Then, when they spend their days doing something that doesn’t require exertion and a revealing outfit, they, sadly, get fatter. Its like we’ve set them up to fulfill the destiny we told them was theirs to begin with: being a fat couch potato.

I wonder, if we tell slender girls who have the “right body” for athletic pursuits, if we encourage those girls to wear bathing suits and shorts proudly, if we encourage them to become the kind of person that makes sports part of their lifestyles. I wonder if those girls learn to desire the validation they receive for having a slender body, and are determined to maintain in, by exercising regularly. I wonder if they fear losing approval of society and parents if they “let themselves go.” I wonder if we set them up for maintaining that body at any cost, even eating disorders.

I don’t intend to make a broad generalization here, that all fat girls were discouraged from playing sports, leading directly to a letter-jacket in Fat Couch Sittings, and all slender girls were encouraged to play sports and end up starring in their own personal Nadia movie. I am just contemplating whether the relationship between believing I was too fat to play sports and quitting is something that is happening to girls on a broad scale, and didn’t just happen to me. I also am not trying to blame my own poor choices on other people, but rather to remove some of the guilt I carry around for “letting myself go.” I am harder on myself than anyone else ever is.

On the flip side of this coin, discovering the Galloway groups I run with was a major boon for me. I have been able to stick with it, in part, because there are plenty of people of all shapes, sizes, and ages plodding along on our long group runs. Our long group runs are organized into pace groups. So there’s a 9-min mile group, a 10-min mile group, etc. all the way up to a 14-min mile group, which is mine. Each group, led by at least two leaders, stays together for the whole long run. The person that sets the pace is the slowest in the group, and if someone pulls a muscle or twists an ankle, they are never left behind. The whole group (or at least one of the two leaders and usually a couple group members who want to be supportive) walks the rest of the route with the injured runner. No one is ever made to feel bad for being unable to keep up. Its an amazingly supportive environment that has given me confidence to keep it up. I’m never too fat or too slow or too untrained to run with Galloway. Its a philosophy that makes for a transformative experience for many, many people who have felt excluded from athletics in the past. I am so grateful to be a part of that.