Tuesday, October 11, 2011


I didn’t run on Sunday. Yes, I know exactly how obnoxious that sounds, but bear with me a bit. I can explain. A few years ago my friend Jenny discovered her love of running when all I liked about running was the stopping. Then she got pregnant, but instead of thinking about how miserable she must be to have to miss out on something that gave her so much joy, I was quietly sipping the Hater-Aide. Not out loud, of course. I’m not so much of a monster that I would squelch anyone’s dream like that. But when we’d pass some spot on her run route and she’d mention how much she missed it—blah, blah, blah—inside I would groan. Seriously, dude? You expect me to believe you actually miss something that torturous? This was most certainly some kind of ploy for attention. And although I understood needing tons of attention while prego, it was annoying nonetheless. There were many days where I stopped myself from whipping out my world’s tiniest violin to play just for her.

Then I became a run addict. Keep in mind that back in January I could barely run 5 minutes straight. Week 7’s 20 minute run still loomed ahead daunting and impossible. Back in January I probably would have made the universal gagging gesture if you had told me I would be mooning over a missed run. But here I am. One of *those*people.

So Sunday, when I missed my run, I learned a few things about myself.
1. I am a better mother when I run.
2. I am a better wife when I run.
3. After I run, I feel more like myself. The real me. The quirky, no-nonsense with a positive outlook me.

On Sunday I was not myself. I was crotchety and inexplicably gloomy despite having slept in. I yelled at my children. I snapped at my husband. I felt resentful at no one in particular and just wanted to take a nap to make it all go away. Monday wasn’t any better, so after yelling at everybody all morning and not making it out the door with enough time to go to the gym before work, I seethed at my desk instead. That evening I had to *make* myself go to the gym, but thank goodness I did. That run was like medication, or prayer. The vague feeling of anger and purposelessness gradually lifted until I felt like myself again. By the time I got off the treadmill I had already started to formulate an apology to my husband. The poor guy had been living with some witch over the weekend, and not the cool, Elphaba, defying gravity kind. I was “…and your little dog, too.” Then I got to thinking: maybe I need this. How many arguments, how many hurt feelings could have been spared if only I had gotten a run in first? Maybe this is the universe’s gift to me to keep me sane and balanced enough to give my family the best parts of me, even if it takes me away for hours at a time on Sunday morning.

Words are powerful and should be treated reverently. In fact the biblical verse that most resonates with me is John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." The first time I read that I actually shuttered at its implications. So when I say that I am blessed, I am not just bandying the word about. I truly mean it.

I am blessed and whole and genuinely looking forward to what tomorrow has to offer—after my run.

Friday, September 9, 2011


She meant well. I know she did. The little body builder/personal trainer chick at the gym could not have possibly meant any harm when she approached me sporting waist-length wavy brown hair under a drill sergeant’s cap. I was headed to the shower room after running 6.2 miles on the treadmill and was admittedly distracted, basking in the glow of my own awesomeness while Corrine Bailey Ray encouraged me to put my records on. I popped one earbud out when I realized she was talking to me.

“You’re doing really great, you know,” she said, nodding in that almost condescending teacherly way that I usually do.

“You’re darn skippy I am,” was dancing on the tip of my tongue, but since I actually do have home training (despite any testimony to the contrary) I handed her a courteous, “Thank you!” instead, along with a gracious smile and went to walk past her into the shower room.

When someone tries to walk around me, I take it as a cue that they are moving on to the next thing. Moving on. Catch you later. Not this chick. My physical cue that our conversation was over did not deter her.

“It’s your diet you know,” she said matter-of-factly. She just put it out there like she'd been watching me eat every day for the last few weeks. For a split second I was confused, then I remembered that I am NOT Oprah so there are no poparazzi following me around and reporting on everything I put in my mouth. There was not confusion here. I knew exactly what she meant, morphing my "Excuse me?" to "Ex-squeeze me?" in less than a moment.

I didn’t say it. I didn't say anything, but I know I didn’t have to. Having no poker face most of my thoughts are written right across my forehead in neat, legible handwriting. She would have to have been illiterate to miss how offended I was. Apparently she could read because what followed next was,

“I mean, I see you working really hard in here so it must be what you're eating.”

Continued silence from me.

“Stop by and talk to me some time. We can work up a meal plan.”

My home training may have automatically had me deliver some polite response such as, “Sure! Thank you!,” but I don’t remember. What I do remember is seething about this through my shower, getting dressed, and the whole drive to work. How dare she? I’m fat. I get it. You look at me and assume that I eat cheeseburgers and feed my children McMeals from drive-through windows. But that, my friend, is an assumption. Once you’re an adult you’re supposed to realize that you can’t just assume that everyone fits into the nice, neat categories you’ve built. All Asian people are not good at Math. All Black people cannot dance. All fat people do not eat junk, and all skinny people are not healthy. So if she thinks I’m going to pay her to judge me she has another thing coming!

Time passes. Tempers cool. I run into wavy-haired trainer chick, this time in the shower room rather than outside of it. She shows me her taped in hair extensions by way of an ice breaker while I packed up my shower things. They *were* pretty sweet. Not my cup of tea, but cool anyway. And before the goodwill of the hair conversation died down, she offered an apology of sorts.

“I’m sorry if I came off the wrong way the other day.”

This should be interesting. I’m listening. With ears tainted by decades of anti-fat bias, but listening nonetheless.

“I wasn’t trying to get you to pay me or anything. I just see you working in here really hard and you’re getting results on your own, but I know a lot of people are not aware of how their blood type effects how they process and metabolize food. I have a client in here who I’ve helped lose 200.4 pounds in the last 14 months. What’s your blood type?”

“O+,” I said, but I only half listened to what she said next. My own guilt was ringing too loudly in my ears for me to catch it all. Sure, she had been making assumptions about me that turned out to be false. But it turns out that what I assumed she was assuming was wrong, too. At the end of her spiel about my needing to eat more red meat and fewer red beans to work in harmony with my blood type, I took her card—graciously—and apologized for being brusque before. When I got to my office, I sent her an e-mail as she requested.

A free meal plan never hurt anyone.

Monday, August 22, 2011


My daughter is greedy. How could she not be? After all, her mother is, too. Before having her I felt certain that my greediness was entirely a product of my upbringing. My mother and sister were both small. My mother tried to control what I ate, but my sister was constantly feeding me. I thought that push and pull had created food’s wanton hold on me, but since becoming a mother myself I know it’s not that simple. Fresh out of the womb, my daughter would nurse until she vomited. Whatever control switch they say babies have that tells them when they are full did not work with her. It was two weeks before I realized what was happening—that she was gorging herself on breast milk—and began latching her off before she had had too much. When she was a toddler she would literally eat until her belly button popped out. Everyday. Her belly button would pop out like the done-ness indicator on a Thanksgiving turkey, and we’d tell her she was done for the day. It was a joke at first, but it got less funny.

I felt awful. It was my fault she was that way. I dealt her the bad gene and I didn’t even know how to fix it. Isn’t that what mothers do? Fix things? The only thing I knew how to do was the same thing I had done for myself—surround her with healthy food. Fresh, organic fruits and vegetables served raw, whole grain bread, hormone-free dairy. No fast food. (We went to Sonic once on a road trip and she STILL talks about it.) Treats in moderation and usually baked in our kitchen. Despite all that, I worry that she will be overweight. Just like her mama.

My daughter is amazing. Surround that with stars and iridescent streamers. When I think of her I couldn’t be more proud. Just like her mama, she started reading before she was three and doesn’t remember what life was like before then. We have the same taste in books (Neil Gaiman, anyone?) and spend hours curled together reading. At age 6 she is an animal expert and self-proclaimed scientist. Often found digging up worms or chasing stray cats in her Punky Brewster-esque gear, she also loves telling jokes and playing pretend. If NOVA is on you may as well not talk to her.

My daughter is beautiful. Her face is lovely. Her spirit is kind and giving. Her weight is perfect. Not one bit over or under. She spins and dances and laughs, marching to the beat of her own drummer. So why am I concerned?

One day, after finishing off two (child-sized) bowls of cheerios with blueberries, she asked for a third. I resisted the temptation to do what my mother would have done. After all, what my mother did didn't work.

“That’s too much,” I said, “You’ve had plenty. Wait a little while and let it settle before you decide you’re still hungry.”

“I don’t mind getting fat,” she threw out matter-of-factly, as if that is what I had asked.

How did she know? How did she know that was what I was thinking? I've never said that to her. I've never told her she was anything but beautiful. A bit taken aback, I decided to pose a question. “Why? Wouldn’t you prefer to be just the way you are? You’re a perfect size.”

Without a beat she said, “Well, you’re beautiful AND you get to eat a lot. I want to be beautiful like you.”

That was when I realized we had been lying to her. Or at least I had. All her life we have taught her that people naturally come in different sizes and that every size is okay. The important thing, we said, was to eat healthy food so your body could be healthy and strong. But in that moment I knew I didn’t believe what I had been telling her. The awful truth was staring me in the face. I said those things to her because I didn't want her to judge ME. I didn't want her to look at ME and think of ME as anything less than beautiful. Being fat was absolutely fine for other people, but not for her. I do not want her to be fat. But since there is no simple way to tell your 6-year-old that you are a hypocrite, I said nothing.

My daughter is a child. She looks to her mother for answers, but her scientific mind is constantly drawing its own conclusions. I know she will learn from my baggage even more than she learns from my words. The most disquieting thing about parenthood is knowing that even though I can give her the tools to meet my definition of success, it will only be her definition that counts.

Children should come with a manual. Or else, their mothers should be wiser.

Monday, August 8, 2011

In Yo' Face, Dedication Gods!

They were definitely testing me, but I emerged victorious.

A few days ago someone stole my gym bag out of my car. Yes the car was unlocked, but before you step up on your soapbox you should know that my car is a 1999 Nissan Pathfinder with a cracked sideview mirror whose remote control door opener was destroyed years ago by baby number 1’s drool. Children. Rain. Fumbling for keys. You get the picture. I usually just leave it unlocked. Well, unbeknownst to me the hippies next door probably had a gathering (no, I don’t have anything against hippies, it’s just funnier when I call them that… but it *is* a commune…with chickens…just sayin’) with unsavory strangers in attendance because when I went out to my car the next morning my gym bag was gone. Not the (empty) purse on the backseat. Not the dollars we keep tucked in the visor for tolls. The gym bag with my sweaty, used items inside.

I have to admit that I freaked out a little bit when I found it gone. My running shoes were in there, and my little clip-on fan, and my sports bra and my awesome orange ankle socks that make me point and flex my foot a few times to admire the view before I slip on my shoes. Everything in there was replaceable, but what couldn’t be replaced was my ability to steal out and run at "lunch." I promise you that that little release has been enough to get me though a whole lot of B.S. My boss especially should thank me for it. But without my sweaty bag of items with no street value at all, I was grounded.

But, no biggie, I said to myself. I can handle this. So last night I dug out my old beat-up sneakers that give me blisters from the back of my closet and replaced most of the other lost items. I even used a *list* when I went to the store so I would be certain not to forget anything. So giddy was I at the prospect of finally getting to run in the morning that I almost couldn't fall asleep.

Enter the Dedication gods. A nasty bunch.

1. I left my set of house keys at my office. They are attached to my flashdrive and i left them in the computer where I had been feverishly working the last few days. I realized this when I first woke up at 4 a.m. No problem. I'll take the van and I'll have my keys with me to get back in the house at the end of the day.

2. Around 4:15, ready to head to the gym, I realized that I had forgotten to put earbuds on my shopping list. One of the remaining side effects of hurricane Katrina is we have very few 24 hour stores. No prob. Willing to drive to one.

3. I get down to the car only to realize I left my phone inside the house AND since I don't have my keys and my husband sleeps like the dead, I could not get back in to retrieve it.

4. Again. No problem. I drive to work, get my keys, drive back home and tear up the house looking for my phone only to realize... it was in my purse the whole time.

5. The 24hour walgreens could not find the key to the glass case with the earbuds.

6. I go to another walgreens, wait twenty minutes for them to open, buy the headphones and...

7. *sweet relief* made it to the gym. WITH a parking space.

Not Job, but as close as I ever want to be. I had a great run and an even better day, so again I say, "IN YO' FACE!"

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Runner in Me

It took me a while to find her, and goodness only knows she ain’t gonna win any races anytime soon, but she’s there. Poking her head out, waving her arms around like a three year old and just as desperate for attention. But it wasn’t always like that. Once upon a time I hated running.

Phase I- Attempted Jogger

I started running in college because it had never occurred to me before then to do it. I was losing weight with aerobics videos (Jane Fonda…classic), but I suddenly noticed that everyone who seemed to have been thin all along ran. A lovely friend of mine offered to have me go on a run with her. Beautiful gesture. She tried not to make me run too fast and her effort to slow down looked almost as painful as my effort to keep up. We ran to the 1 mile marker and turned around to walk back. Despite my friend’s encouragement I have never felt more humiliated or ashamed in my life which, in turn, fueled my determination to conquer it. I added it to the schedule of punishments for being fat, otherwise known as my workout schedule.

Phase II- Successful, Angry Jogger

Time passed and I found exercises I liked more. I like to dance (don’t judge me), so dance-y aerobics videos were right up my alley. The calories burned while doing them was not enough to compensate for me overeating, though, and over time I gained back all the weight I had lost despite exercising regularly and decided (like so many Navy wives do) that weight loss is an excellent pastime while your husband is on deployment. Enter the jogging. I started off doing 5 laps around a little island in our apartment complex, and forced myself to go further every day. Didn’t matter if it felt good. Further. Faster. Every time. Or you’re a failure. I did that through my husband’s 7 month deployment and continued for about a year all together. Like that I got up to running 3 miles at a time, hating every step. Much further than in my college days so I counted it as a success.

By this time we had bought a house and moved to a new neighborhood. My new neighbors were super-impressed to see me out there running early in the morning and would comment on how much I must love it to do it so consistently. My standard reply was, “I hate running. The part I like is the stopping.” It was true. I hated every step, I mean loathed it to my core the way nature abhors a vacuum. ;) The part that I liked was that at the end I could say, “I ran [insert number] miles today.”

Phase III- Runner!

Yep. I’m morbidly obese and I consider myself a runner. This shift was entirely mental for me and had nothing to do with my speed or endurance. But one of the things that I have learned by talking to other runners is that no true runner will judge you for your speed or your distance. That is for you to judge. If you get out there and put shoes to pavement (or treadmill belt) every day, you can be a part of the clan. But although I have run in years past, I frankly didn’t want to be a part of the clan. I hated the clan and all the torture it represented. That is, until I did Couch to 5k. Cliche but true, Couch to 5k completely changed my running mindset. Instead of running for speed or for punishment, I was only running for time. Just finish. Doesn’t matter how far you go. Just finish. On days where I was a bit run down, I went slower. On days where I was feeling chipper, I went faster. And somewhere around week 7 I began to see—to feel—a beauty in the rhythm of it. I missed it on days when I couldn’t do it and I was willing to make sacrifices to squeeze it in. That’s when I knew I had crossed over to being a runner.

I’ll worry about my 5k time next year.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Et Tu, Brute?

So my husband, whom I love and in most respects is a pretty awesome human being, is a fat-ist. Size-ist? I don’t know. Whatever you call people who make negative assumptions about people based on their size. I would never have suspected this early on in our relationship. There were a number of screens up that prevented me from correctly reading the situation.

Screen 1: He met, fell in love with, decided he couldn’t live without, and married me at my heaviest, which was pretty darn heavy.

Screen 2: He always listened attentively and nodded in agreement when I complained about my ill-treatment from doctors and how annoying it was to have them CONSISTENTLY be surprised when my blood pressure/heart rate/ blood sugar were all better than average.

Screen 3: He finds a broad spectrum of women attractive based on proportion, face, hair, and personality. This was important to me, too, because I didn’t want to be stuck with a guy with a fat chick fetish, either.

Screen 4: He points out (when I’m on a weight loss stint) that he has no issue with the size of my body and often mentions that people are genetically destined to be in different categories.

So what’s the problem? Sounds like a dream, right? Get bigger…get smaller… it’s all good. What’s not to like?

This is not to like.

So I mentioned the other day that a challenge group I joined made doing 100 jumping jacks the daily challenge. I meant to use it like a desk break, doing 25 or so at a time when I needed to stretch, but since I was doing site visits most of the day I just did 50 in my office before running out of the door to get the kids and, don’t be alarmed honey, but I’m about to knock out the other 50 right here in the kitchen before we eat dinner. He looks up at me in all seriousness and says, “You can do 50 jumping jacks?” Blank stare from me. “I mean, you can knock out 50 jumping jacks real quick?” Blank stare morphs into are-you-freaking-kidding-me-I-run-4.5 miles-at-a-clip-and-have-a-resting-heart-rate-of-48 face. I wanted to say, “Who are you? Have you been listening to me at all in all these years? Do you realize how insulting it is to have you—YOU—of all people ask me that. You who I thought understood me and realized that weight and health are not always directly correlative and certainly not in my case.”

Instead I said, “Yes,” and knocked out the other 50.

Running with Alcide: How trashy t.v. took the “dread” out of dreadmill

It’s hot in New Orleans. Not cute tank top hot. Not, “Oh! Let’s drink lemonade,” hot. Hot hot. Stinky hot. Clothes-stick-to-you-the-instant-you-step-outside-hot. Take a third bath hot. So back in February when I had the full-on realization that I *love* (yep, love) the running part of running, my mind immediately fastforwarded to the heat. In New Orleans we never know when the heat is going to come because, truth be told, it never leaves. We don’t have seasons, we have cold fronts. If there’s no cold front passing through, you can legitimately wear shorts on Christmas. Now, your mother wouldn’t let you do that. At least not to church. She *might* let you wear a short set to play with your cousins in the 80+ degree afternoon heat after mass. Might. More likely a skirt. We try hard to make our clothes match the season down here even if the weather doesn’t.

So there I was on February 13th, running on the levee and more thankful for the light breeze off the river than I knew I could be. Although it was my birthday, that run was the only glean of happiness I felt that day and I realized how desperate I would have felt without it and the breeze that made it possible. The running gods smiled on me that day and continued providing cool (enough) breezy (enough) mornings at least 3 days a week until April. But the day did eventually come where I could not do it anymore. I ran my usual 45 minute route and vomited at the end of it before sporting a 3 day long migraine. Yep. I knew from previous attempts at becoming a jogger that running in the heat didn’t work for me and it still doesn’t. So what do I do? Give up jogging? Wait until October when a cool front *might* happen through? It actually frightened me to think of having to start all over again. To go back to the point where running a mile without stopping was an accomplishment. Don’t get me wrong. Most runners have to journey through that point, but I was fearful that if I lost too much ground I would never pick it back up again. The only alternative was joining a gym and jumping on treadmill.
Treadmill. Say it three times. Treadmill. Said properly it sends shivers of dread through the stoutest man's soul.

Everybody told me how much the treadmill was going to suck, yet somehow I still wasn’t prepared for it. I had my music. I had my water. I was in the A/C. Still it sucked. I bought a clip-on fan and closed my eyes, pretending it was a breeze. That helped some, but not enough.

What finally turned the tide was Alcide. Dark, muscular (but not too much), I'm a werewolf but a good guy Alcide. Well, actually it wasn’t Alcide at first. At first it was Tyrion Lannister and Daenerys Targaryen and all the good people at HBO who thought of making an HBOgo app for the iPhone. I tried watching comedy at first, thinking that laughter would push me through, but it wasn't until I found the fantasy world of the Seven Kingdoms and its iron throne that I became enthralled enough to forget I was on the dreadmill. I metered those episodes out in a way my greedy personality usually does not allow, watching Game of Thrones series ONLY when I was running at full throttle. Like that I stretched that one season out to 20 runs or so, but it eventually ran out. Now I’ve switched over to True Blood. Sookie and Eric are fine and all, and I like a good coven of witches as much as the next girl, but waiting for Alcide to pop-up and (hopefully) pop out of his shirt I’ve even managed to increase my speed. Have you seen Alcide? You’d probably run for a glimpse of him, too. ;)