Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What is Your Number?

Yesterday I read a post that really struck home with me.  Mel from Tall Mom on the Run wrote about embracing her "big" body.  I have been reading Mel's blog for a few years and love what she has to say.  She was a college basketball player and is tall, obviously.  Being tall has its pluses, but as a runner we are reminded that tall also means big.  But there is one thing that I want to scream out to everyone who underestimates me at races, just because I am "big" doesn't mean I am slow.  This is definitely not the case with Mel, either.  She is a fast Boston Marathon qualifier!

In January, a new show started on ABC during the day called The Revolution.  I don't actually watch TV during the day, but I sometimes keep it on while I am studying and watch a story if it seems interesting.  The Revolution is about becoming healthy and creating your own revolution.  This week the topic is "What is Your Number?" and on Monday, everyone in the audience were wearing shirts with their weight on the front.  This made me stop and think, because, I hate the number that I see on that scale.  Would I wear my weight on my shirt to show you right now?  Absolutely not.

But......I am no longer focused on that number like I used to be.  I am coming on my five year anniversary from when I joined Weight Watchers.  I am down 85-90 pounds depending on the week, but today I don't know what I weigh.  I don't know my number, because the scale is a source of stress to me.  Currently I am training for the Boston Marathon.  Running the best possible marathon is my goal right now.  Yes, I would love to be in Hopkinton at a low weight, but that is not my main goal.  What I have learned while training for 16 marathons is that it is very difficult for me to lose weight while training.  I am not saying you can't do it, but it doesn't work for me.

Accepting that I can not diet during marathon training was hard at first.  I am trained to think that if I had a "cheating" weekend that I need to hop back on the wagon and limit my calories on Monday morning.  This doesn't work when Monday morning equals a 10 mile run.  In November, after reading a Sports Nutrition book (I blogged about it here), I stopped focusing on a NUMBER that I put into my mouth and have since started listening to my body.  At first it was so hard to do this and it was SO scary.  I was eating double the amount of food that I was used to.  But something finally clicked.  The number on that scale didn't budge much, but the number on my clothes did.

In December, I was out to lunch for my birthday in my favorite pair of jeans.  They were falling off of me.  My sister talked me into heading down to the Gap and finding a pair that would fit me.  (I hate hate hate jeans shopping, but that is a story for another day.)  I left the mall that day in a jeans size that I had never seen before.  Funny enough, I still fear wearing those jeans.  The number seems too small for me and I am afraid to put them on and have them not fit.  I put them on again last week after a good month of them sitting in my closet and they fit a tiny bit better.  It is a silly number, but I can't get it out of my head.

Ignoring my number and embracing my body has been especially difficult the past 6 months.  I have begun meeting a lot of new blogging friends and they are all tiny compared to me.  I want to say that I am confident and that it doesn't bother me when I tower over a friend, but this is not the case.  I see pictures like this....
And this...
And instead of seeing the powerful woman that I am....I see my waistline that isn't thin, the extra skin on my legs, and compare myself to people that I am not nor will ever be.  This is what my mind sees when I see these pictures...
I know I no longer look like this, but at my highest weight, there were times when I had more confidence in my body than I do now.  I have pictures of myself in a bikini, and I didn't hide from the camera like I do now.  

Embracing my body is an up-hill battle.  I am so proud of how far I have come.  Learning to accept that I am not a small person is especially hard when I am involved in a sport where everyone around me is small.  But this body that is not small has run a 3:32 marathon.  My larger waist has run a 1:41 half marathon.  And that skin flying in that picture was on its way to a 21:15 5k.  This body also carried around two beautiful girls that I could not imagine my life without.  My body may not be perfect but everyday it proves to me how wonderful and strong it is.

Would you wear your number on your shirt? Do you compare your body to other runners and let it bother you?


20 comments:

Amanda Loudin said...

I love this post and love your strong self! I actually never weigh myself. The number means nothing to me. How my clothes fit is another story. Not sure if that is healthier or not, but it's where I am. I will admit that I run with some really tiny women and sometimes it is hard not to compare. But I'm happy overall and that's what matters.

portia o. said...

I am so happy you wrote this. I am training for my first marathon, and for the first 4-5 weeks I was trying to limit my calories too. Duh. Now I am eating more and running faster.

Ericka @ The Sweet Life said...

Read this whole post and wow, good job. I can't relate to ever having been bigger but I can empathize and understand how it's an ongoing battle. Wearing my weight on my shirt...hmm, well, I would do it but not if I gained a single pound. Where I'm at now is the highest I want to be. But weight is so deceiving anyway -- it doesn't mean what people think I'm taller than most of my friends, and in turn, bigger so I always think I look huge in photos but I just have to remind myself that that's not what matters and my biggest critic is myself. Best to you.

Jess said...

OMG I love this post SO SO SO much. You are so strong and powerful and FIT it's amazing. And to remember how far you've come in your weight loss journey on top of all of that? Even more amazing. I think the hardest part about changing your body, is changing your mind's view of your body. It is scary hard to look in the mirror and actually truly "see" yourself for who you are today and accept that you ARE smaller, that it's NOT a dream, that it's real and it's ok and AWESOME to wear jeans that are way smaller than you'd ever worn before. This is such a powerful post on so many levels, I could go on for hours about it. Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

Michelle @ Crazy*Running*Legs said...

I think you are AMAZING! The weight loss is really just half the story, although I can understand how numbers and the comparison trap might play head games with you.

I think we are harder on ourselves that anyone else (except possibly our kids!), but yes - I do compare. Not just with my body and running -- but as a parent, as coworker, as a wife. There's always a little doubt in the back of mind. I just have to push through it. After all, I have the best cheerleaders in the world and to them NONE of that matters.

Tamara Grand said...

We all need to be reminded of this, no matter our age, size or fitness level. We live in wonderful bodies that do amazing things! Thanks for sharing.

Jessica said...

this is SUCH an excellent post, robin. you are beautiful - and strong - inside and out. the number on the scale is not something i like to think about. a year ago after having baby number 3 i had a lot of weight to lose after he was born and i had to be patient with it and work hard. and then, once the number was where i wanted it to be, i still had (and still do have) a lot of toning and strengthening to do! running and training really helps me not focus on the scale or my jean size (i hate jeans, by the way - i can never find some that i love). i am focused on being the strongest i can be and that is a lot healthier for me in so many ways. i really don't like the scale - it breeds negative thinking and a warped sense of self worth for me!

See Mom Run Far said...

This is a great post Robin! One of the things that I love about racing is seeing how runners (and FAST runners) come in all shapes, sizes, and ages. I totally "get" what you are saying - I still have days when I look in the mirror and see the me that was 80lbs bigger. Honestly? I am happy with my # right now, and proud of where I am at. And yet, I am trying to shave off some pounds for Boston because I believe that will make me faster. It is a tough balance to find - fueling enough but not overeating. I have been able to lose about 5 lbs with each marathon cycle and feel like i have gotten faster/stronger, so I am still trying to find my ideal racing weight (as light as I can be while still being healthy and strong).

YOU have come so far and done such an amazing job. I never would have even recognized you in that before pic. You are beautiful, healthy, strong, and FAST (the clock does NOT lie!) and that is more important than any number.

I think comparing "numbers" or just about anything is a dangerous game because there is always going to be someone thinner, faster, shorter, taller, etc. I am guilty of it at times, but try to just focus on being the best version of "me" I can. Not always easy, but I try. :)

You rock Robin! You are awesome and don't ever doubt yourself or let some number make you feel less than amazing! Hugs!

Laura said...

Lovely post, Robin! Thank you for being so honest. It is amazing how hard it is to get away from comparing ourselves to others, no matter what our size. And as someone else said, I catch myself doing it in other areas of life, such as parenting. I've never met you in person, but I would never think from your photos that you're "big" or even "tall"-- you look awesome! We can be so hard on ourselves. But I love that you're also aware of how incredibly strong you are... you're a talented runner, and an accomplished athlete, and your body has carried you through it all. Congrats on making such huge progress, both in weight loss and in athletic ability, in the last few years. Be proud! :)

Jenny @ The Little JBird said...

Great post! It's funny how what we "see" isn't usually what other people see when they look at us. How can our perception be so different? And why are we so hard on ourselves? I am horrible with comparing myself to others. It's a hard habit to break. :(
You're an amazing runner!! I wish I had just a tiny bit of your speed! :)

Caroline said...

this is interesting...tall does not always equal big...
I am tall at 5'11" and I dont consider myself to be big NOW at 138.
I used to
I have before and after pics like you...I lost 75 lbs. I used to be tall and big.
I have several friends who are tall and they are not big.
when I look at your pictures I would never think of you as big either...it is hard to tell if you are tall on pictures but it is easy to tell....not big for sure :)

I hate jeans shopping also..and bras and baithing suit...I hate shopping for clothes...
I still pick up the size 16...I still see myself big.

the honest truth is that 2 yrs ago I would have not want to wear my number on my shirt because I was ashamed of it..now I would but it is not as important to me as my number from 2 yrs ago. Today if my number go up a few pounds I dont care...as long as I feel good..all is fine.

I dont compare my body to other runners...that would be a tragedy for me!!! :)

Suzanne Westenhofer said...

This is a great post! I'm tall too and I hate that people use tall and big interchangeably. It's NOT the same thing. You are quite speedy, by the way!

{lifeasa}RunningMom said...

It is hard to not compare myself to others but I try not too. I also have that extra skin on my legs and hate how it looks in some pictures but am trying to focus on what is important. My well-being. I have tucked my scale away in the top shelf of a hall closet and now that I don't see the number, I am a happier woman, feel better about myself, feel more beautiful, and you know what, the number is probably the same or perhaps a bit more. :)

Mattie @ Comfy & Confident said...

Great Post! I don't think I would wear my number on my shirt. Like you, I see myself as a much bigger person than I am. It is something I am working on, but I think it has more to do with me wanting to be better and look better. I am never satisfied and I am not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing.

Bonnie Lang said...

What a great post...thank you for sharing your thoughts! You are strong, fast (wow!) and beautiful and I love watching your thought process unravel and lead to such a solid self-image by the end of your writing. I think we all have a rough time NOT comparing ourselves to others (especially in this fitness/blogging community!), but comparison truly is the thief of joy...Thanks for reminding me of this. :D

Nanette0269 said...

Ok...will try to repeat myself under the CORRECT entry :)

When I started running, I was interested in losing weight to look slimmer. Now, I'm interested in loosing weight to run faster. I know I can run, but I don't like the jiggle...and I know I would be faster (all things being equal) if I weighed less. So, I'm being vane....but not for beauty, for speed. In my mind, its a better reason to lose weight now....much more of a healthy view of myself, as I'm focusing on what my body can do, rather than what my body looks like.

Michele @ nycrunningmama.com said...

What a beautiful post, Robin! First of all, I would NEVER view you as big...when I see pictures of you, I see a strong, FAST runner - someone that I hope to run with one day...I think you are right - often we see something different than what is in front of us. There have been days when I look at race photos and see the extra bit of meat on my legs...it's ALL in my head. I know others don't think of that when they look at me.

Jolene said...

Wow. Robin, I could have written this myself before too. I constantly compare myself. And it is such a viscous cycle, when you're in the thick of it, isn't it? But like others here have said, I see you and I see FIT and STRONG and happy. And seriously, you look freaking amazing. Honestly. You have accomplished so much, you look great, and as hard as it is to see yourself as you are NOW vs. your 'before' pictures of the past, just know that I think we've all been there, and in a way, it's normal to see the old, not the now. But you honestly look fantastic and I love the message behind this post!

Ricoleruns said...

Look at you go! Good for you. Love this post and I applaud all of your hard work, it shows! I also absolutely adore those hot pink calf sleeves. :-) I'm not a big fan of the scale either, it's so dependent on your height, but at the same time, weighing myself often usually keeps me on track, and when I've been eating bad I'm "scared" to get on the scale.

Cheri said...

Found this post by way of Swim Bike Mom, and I thought you might be interested to read a blog post written by Stephanie, the "big" woman on the treadmill in that episode of The Revolution. Her blog is such an inspiration to me, hope you like it too. :)
http://www.radicalhateloss.com/2012/02/does-weight-really-matter-my-guest.html