body image, diet culture bullshit, running, writing

The PB&J Problem: why a writer who wrote a book about running is no longer running

Fat Girl Friday copy

This post is a long time in the making. Like, two years long time and, honestly, I’m still not sure it’s going to see the light of day (of course, if you are currently reading this, it obviously means that I decided to hit “publish” after all).

If you have followed me on social media for any length of time, you’ve probably noticed that I don’t really talk about running. Specifically, I never talk about running. I don’t post race photos online, I don’t share times or splits on Facebook, and I never blog about it. That podcast I used to host about running? Hasn’t been updated in years and you probably can’t even find it anymore if you tried.

That’s because I’m not running and haven’t run in a very, very long time. When I do sign up for races, like the Christmas Story 5K, I walk them. Which is somewhat awkward, given the whole I wrote a memoir about running thing.

When people ask — and they inevitably do, what with the whole book and author talk thing — I’d sort of make vague allusions to upcoming races and recent runs. Or I’d cop out and say “Oh, sure, I’m still running, just not as much as I used to.” But I wasn’t and I hadn’t and I don’t really remember the last time I tried.

And I have tried, many many times. I’ve written out training plans.  I’ve redownloaded the Couch-to-5K app numerous times. I’ve charged up my Garmin and laced up my shoes and gone out the door.

Hell, I had a training plan for the Christmas Story run and fully intended to run that race. But, like with every other time, the enthusiasm lasted a day or two, a run or two, and then I hit a wall.

Fat Girl Friday copy 2

This can all be traced back to anklegate: that six month period of not-running really fucked with my head in a lot of ways, and it was during that time that I quit dieting for good.

Which circles back to the reason I’m not running:

Right now, running is too tied to diet culture for me to participate.

When I first stepped on the treadmill way back in February 2012, it was in order to lose weight. And I continued to run because I continued to lose weight. Running was exercise for weight loss. It was a fitness activity I did for weight loss. When I changed my dietary habits, it wasn’t just for my running but also for weight loss.

I have no fucking clue how to separate weight loss from running and because weight loss fucks with my head, running now does, too. Other fitness activities aren’t quite so entwined with diet culture, which is why I still spin and do yoga and all of that.

But not running. For me, running and diet culture are like peanut butter and jelly. Like when you press down the top slice of bread and the jelly and the peanut butter get all smooshed together and there’s no fucking separating them at that point. From then on, no matter what, that peanut butter will always taste like grape jelly.

And so, I don’t run.

Which is ……. complicated when you wrote a book about it. I honestly kind of hated going to author events for Running with a Police Escort because I felt like a fraud and a failure. Like I had no business being up there talking about running because I was no longer a runner.

That’s not what readers want to hear. With the way the book ended, in a freak accident due to tripping down the stairs, I wanted to be able to provide some inspiring ending after the fact. People want to be inspired. They want to believe that you overcame the injury and crossed the finish line of the race and kept the weight off and made some triumphant recovery. I didn’t.

Fat Girl Friday copy

The thing of it is, I miss running.

I miss how it made me feel after a really good run. I miss the sensation of accomplishment when I complete a race. I miss my running friends from Cleveland Marathon Ambassador group. I still have dreams and goals of following the blue line and crossing the finish line at Akron.

I just cannot do it. Not now. Not yet. Before I can truly embrace running again, I have to first figure out to separate the jelly from the peanut butter and I have no fucking clue how to do that.

Diet culture has destroyed my relationship with running.

This weekend is the annual St. Malachi Race and for the first time in seven years, I won’t be there. I won’t be decked out in all of my green, lining up outside the church, ready to rock it. I know walking is always an option, and that’s what I’ve done the past couple years, but I just can’t. Not this year, at least. This race has such a special place in my heart, I have too much emotionally invested that for my own sense of self care I have to bow out (which is unfortunate, because the paperback edition Running With a Police Escort comes out in a month and in the afterword — written in November — I mention I’d most definitely be running St. Malachi. Awkward.)

No, this year I’m going to wake up and put on my brand new Ursula-inspired swimsuit and go to the aqua aerobics class at the YMCA. Because, I mean, if you’re going to buy a swimsuit inspired by one of the best Disney villains of all time, why wouldn’t you take it for a test run as soon as possible?

Fatventure Mag, the website I have an online column with, just announced the Kickstarter for their second volume! Fatventure Mag is a really important publication that challenges toxic beliefs about fat bodies and shares stories from fat women and non-binary individuals who have active lives separate from diet culture. I’m really happy to be part of the team and would love if you would consider making a pledge to their Kickstarter.

12 thoughts on “The PB&J Problem: why a writer who wrote a book about running is no longer running”

  1. Yep, same reason I had to stop running. It made me obsess waaaayyyy too much about weight loss to the point that was about all I thought about all day every day. Now I walk. There are a lot of forms of exercise that could give you that “runner’s high” (I like dancing for this as well) without you actually having to run!

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  2. I still love running, and to me, it feels more like meditating. I throw on some of my favorite podcasts, lace up, and run all over town. I can see how it definitely is tied to doing it for weight loss and the scars that can create too. I hope you find joy in it again and are able to separate the “peanut butter from the jelly.”

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  3. I started running as a weight loss, and running actually took me away from weight loss, and into triathlon. Now its about having fun for me, and if I lose weight (which of course I would love to) great, but I really just love triathlon. But I also get it. Its hard to separate one aspect of weight loss, when it was very much a part of the process. You will figure it out. I would recommend going to a group gathering. I belong to a organization and we run to raise money and awareness for our cause. Sometimes when you find a cause that means something to you, you stop seeing running as a health factor, and you see it as doing good for a cause. Just an idea.

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  4. I loved running (not far distances but 5k distances) and then I tore my ACL and never really ran again. It’s ok though- I started spinning and doing other things and I don’t feel like I missing anything at all.

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  5. I enjoy running but I no longer write a running-focused blog and I no longer race every weekend! A lot has changed with having a home and a kid. But I’m OK with it. I feel like running 10 milers and half-marathons wasn’t sustainable for me or my body. I want to make sure I can stay healthy and work out in some fashion when I’m 70! Running is hard on the body I think and the knees. Lately I will run on the treadmill mostly and only a few miles or a timed run such as 20-minutes. It seems like running burns the most calories of any cardio I’ve tried so I can see the diet relation there. You feel like you need to run 5 miles to burn that 500 calories. I’m done with that life. Lately I’ve been hyper-focused on diet. I would rather eat healthy and run 2 miles than eat bad and feel like I HAVE to run 5 miles to make up for it. It sounds like you are making running peace as well.

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  6. I just started to run recently and just completed my first 5K (mostly walking). I did start to run for weight loss, but now I’m just enjoying the feeling of accomplishment. I’ve been overweight my whole life and two years ago was physically a disaster. When I can run and hit a new goal, as small as it may be (first a full block, then two, etc.), it makes me feel so good. I can feel my body working. I don’t need to be a rock star or the first in my group (ha! never will happen and that’s ok!). I still struggle to motivate myself to do it regularly, but I’m OK with that too. Now spinning, on the other hand, kicks my butt!!!

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