What could you do if you lost weight?

On social media last week, an acquaintance posed the following question:

Fill in the blanks:

If I lost ___ lbs, then I could ____!

I couldn’t decide if my reaction was outrage or sadness or a combination of the both. So I responded:

If I lost zero pounds then I could still do everything I can do right now because my weight does not control me.

My friend and teammate Steena also had an awesome response.

Weight is a very sensitive issue. There are plenty of people out there who want to lose weight for a variety of reasons. There are also plenty of people out there who have realized that life and health are about much more than weight. It’s a complicated, emotional thing, and I’m sure like many, I will always be a little conflicted about the whole thing.

But one thing I am sure of is that you shouldn’t let your weight hold you back. If there’s something you want to do, go do it, regardless of your weight! Want to take an awesome vacation or wear a bikini on the beach or join a running club or ask that cute girl or boy out on a date? Go for it! Don’t wait until some nebulous future where you think you will be better because the scale says you are slightly lighter than you were before.

I get it. I definitely have fat days, days where I don’t particularly like the way my body looks. I participate in a sport where I wear spandex. In public. And I let people take my picture.

escape the cape run
It’s easy to look good in a photo when you can see the photographers up ahead.

However, while I’m racing, I never feel like the chubby girl. I feel powerful. My abs aren’t something to be sucked in but something that helps keep driving my body forward as I race. My thick thighs are a family trait, passed down through generations of strong women (who probably aren’t pleased that I’m running around so scantily clad).

I’m a proud Athena triathlete. I’m not ashamed of my weight when I race, and if there is an Athena class (to qualify, a woman just needs to weigh over 165 pounds, regardless of height), you’d better believe I’m registering in the class, and I’m going to gun it to try to get on the podium too. Have I had people call it the fat girl category (including other Athenas)? Sure. Do I care? Honestly, sometimes I do. I try not to, but that’s easier said than done.

Do I sometimes look at other triathletes and think “I wish I had her abs or her shoulders?” Sure. But maybe she looks at me and wishes she had my hair. Maybe she struggles with self-confidence and body image too.

Let’s not let our bodies hold us back. Let’s celebrate what they can do in the here and now. Because every body is awesome.

Is Fatlogic Holding You Back?

A couple of years ago, I learned about “fatlogic,” and I fell in love with the idea.  Fatlogic has a lot of different definitions (it’s a fake word made up by the internet, what do you expect?), but the one that really resonates with me is that fatlogic is when you use weight or size to justify something.

“I’m fat, so it doesn’t matter how I dress, I’ll never look good.”

“I can’t run because I’m fat.”

“I’m too fat to ever fit in with that group.”

I feel like I’ve been seeing it more and more, and idiots on the internet definitely don’t help.  And yes, there are times when your size can be a reason you can’t do something (theme park rides with small seats, some sort of activity with a weight limit, etc), you can’t let your weight or size become an excuse.

I have seen time and time again where people (men and women alike) say that they can’t ride a bike because they’re too fat.  While I suppose there is a size where you can’t ride a bike, I think most of these people are using it as an excuse.  Maybe they are too scared to ride.  Maybe they don’t want to be seen in public riding. Maybe they think they’re going to fall.  Maybe they just don’t want to be the fat person on the bike.  But that doesn’t mean they can’t do it.

escape the cape bike

Go to a bike shop.  Find a bike that fits you and your body.  Go ride.  There are plenty of friendly people out there of all sizes who are out riding.  (And besides, the heavier you are, the faster you go downhill, which is super fun.  Thank you, gravity.)

I know that I have definitely felt like I’m too big to be riding my tri bike.  I refused to get aero bars for my road bike because I thought I would look like an idiot with my belly all in the way.  And no, I’m certainly not the most aero rider, but that has to do both with my size and my general lack of flexibility.  And yet there I am, riding a tri bike.  And I’m getting faster on it too.

Maybe you just want to go to the pool, but are afraid to be the fat person at the pool.  Go to the pool.  Just show up.  If you go during lap swim hours, you will see your super fit swimmers there, but you will also see people of all shapes and sizes.  (If you go to my pool, I believe the average age of the swimmers is approximately 68, and that’s including when the high school swim team is there.)  No one actually cares what you look like because they’re not looking at you.  I’m not going to avoid sharing a lap lane with someone because of their size (unless it’s super tall butterfly guy, and that’s just because he doesn’t understand that he can’t swim butterfly while splitting a lane without hitting me EVERY SINGLE LENGTH.  Ahem.).

You weight isn’t a reason to not do something.  And if you’re not happy with your weight, do something to change it.  But don’t let your weight hold you back, and certainly don’t say “Oh, I won’t do that until I’ve lost a bit more weight.”  You don’t know what you’re missing out on.


The Athena Debate

Every so often in triathlon social media groups, the Athena & Clydesdale debate comes up.  Most recently it was (paraphrased) “I just lost a bunch of weight, and no offense, but I don’t want to be classified as an Athena!”

Yeah, no offense except to everyone who proudly races Athena.

Let’s step back for a minute.  Athena and Clydesdale are weight divisions in triathlon.  According to USAT regulations, an Athena is a woman over 165 pounds and a Clydesdale is a man over 220 pounds.  The general thinking is that it takes more energy to power a larger body over a course, so these groups can be separated out into their own class.  Some races divide it further – Athena under 40 and over 40, for example.

Athena and Clydesdale are opt-in race categories.  If you’re a woman over 165 pounds, you can choose to race in your age group or you can choose to race Athena.  Some races make you weigh in at packet pickup to prove that you make the weight, and I’ve also heard that some races have you weigh in at awards time to ensure that the winners actually meet the qualifications.  But even if you weigh over 165, if you weigh 265 or 365, you don’t have to register as an Athena.  It’s an option.

Last year, I didn’t race Athena.  I was on a weight loss kick and hoped to be at or below 165 by race season.  I was not.  And that’s okay.  I still need to lose weight for my health, but I’m focusing more on healthy diet and healthy lifestyle and not worrying about the scale.  By racing in my Age Group, I kind of missed the camaraderie that comes with racing Athena.  For me, it’s often smaller than my age group, so the wave starts can be more fun.  In a lot of the races I’ve done, the Athenas, Clydesdales, and Novice racers (another personally chosen category designed for newbies) all start together and I love starting with the Novices.  It’s so much fun to hang out pre-race and try to help others not stress about the swim.

Getting to know other Athenas has also been really valuable.  In addition to carrying added weight through the course, Athenas have other unique issues.  Finding kits that fit, finding wetsuits, sports bras, all the things that curvier women deal with.

This year, I decided to race Athena again.  There’s no reason not to.  I’m not ashamed of my weight.  Besides, I’m racing in spandex.  It’s not like the number on the scale tells anyone anything about my body that they can’t already see.

Does this give me a better chance of being on the podium?  Sure, simply because there are fewer people racing in the category.  That said, Athena can still be incredibly competitive and at some races, I will be so far from the podium that it’s laughable to even consider.

People choose to race Athena for a number of reasons.  My thinking is that it’s a valid race classification and if you qualify, why not register?  And if you don’t want to, that’s okay too.  But that doesn’t mean that you should look down on anyone who chooses to race Athena.  We’re all out there doing the same race and covering the same course.

Too Fat to Race?

Over the past few weeks, there has been a lot of talk of people cheating in races, be it cheating to get into Boston (a BIG DEAL) or cheating at the Tinker Bell Half (a less big deal).  But one thing that I’ve noticed throughout a lot of the conversations is a lot of body snarking.

“There’s no way that fat girl qualified for Boston.”

“Yeah, he totally didn’t run that fast.”

Now, let’s be honest, elite runners do have a body type.  I don’t know if that body type is what makes them good at running or if they get that body type from all the training they have.  So if someone built like me is beating elite runners, you can be pretty confident that some funny business is going on.

But for the average runner or triathlete, your size doesn’t matter.

20130609-145706.jpgThis is a photo of me at my first triathlon.  I had no idea what I was doing.  (I still have no idea what I’m doing, but I’m more experienced at it now.)  I was probably somewhere at my heaviest, and I post this because it’s not a particularly flattering or unflattering picture.  It’s just an action shot where you can see the shape of my body.  Do I look like a triathlete?

The answer is yes.  Because I am doing a triathlon.  That’s what triathletes look like.  People who do triathlons.

What’s awful is seeing how people cut each other down because of their size.  In a fairly popular women’s triathlon group on Facebook, a woman recently posted a pic of an Athleta ad with two women on stand up paddleboards.  One of the women was a bit bigger and wearing a bikini.  She had a belly and some thighs, but was probably a size 10 or 12, judging only by comparing to how I would look in a similar outfit.  And the comment, from someone who says she is a health professional, was how Athleta was promoting the wrong thing – specifically Type 2 Diabetes.

Yes, because all chubby people have diabetes.

Now, I’ve said before that I don’t love the way that the Health at Every Size movement has gone, because HAES proponents believe that you can eat what you want and do as much or as little physical activity as you want and whatever your body does is fine.  I disagree – you should try to eat well as much as you can (but not all the time, because where’s the fun in that) and you should get some physical exercise, though that can be anything from walking your dog to dancing in your living room to participating in organized activities.

But I do think there’s too much focus on weight when it comes to endurance sports.  Is it harder to do a race the bigger you are?  Probably, just because you’re moving more weight around.  Doesn’t make a bigger athlete a lesser athlete.  I’ve passed thin girls while going uphill on my bike – and then this weight makes me fly while going downhill.

It’s unfortunate when I see it from groups that are designed to support the sport.  “We support everyone, but not you, because you don’t fit our model.”  No, that’s not how it’s supposed to work.  Sadly, it wasn’t just this one person commenting about the Athleta ad.  Others chimed in agreeing with her, talking about obesity-related diseases.  Yes, those do exist, and I’m doing my best to avoid them.  By doing things like eating well and participating in triathlon.  If you want to help someone avoid obesity-related diseases, shouldn’t you be encouraging them in their active and healthy lifestyle?

I don’t understand why anyone has a problem with the size of another racer.  If there are runners or triathletes bigger or smaller than me in a race, why should I care?  Is it because I don’t want to get passed by a “fat girl?”  Personally, I don’t care, but I sometimes wonder if that’s it.  Or maybe they don’t want people to think less of them because “Hey, fat people can do that too.”

Either way, it’s high time we stop judging people based on appearances, and it’s definitely time to stop putting others down.  If you don’t want to be welcoming of others, then just ignore them and stay in your own bubble.  But if you venture out, you might just meet someone awesome.


Fat at the Gym

Why does this guy have one curl of hair on his chest?  Also, he has skipped leg day
Prawny / Pixabay

Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen people talking about how they’re embarrassed to go to the gym because they don’t have the typical “gym-goer” body.  Umm…

How do you think those people got those bodies?  By going to the gym!

But I get it.  No one wants to go to the gym and feel like they’re the fat person on the treadmill that everyone’s looking at.  I have to tell you though, no one’s looking at you with any negativity in their minds.  They probably don’t even register anything about you.  And there might even be someone looking at you and thinking “Hey, that was me a year ago – I hope they keep it up too.”

No one is thinking “Why is that fat person here?”  So don’t worry about it.

From my experience, the only people who get judged at the gym are the annoying ones.  The guy who yells as he throws his weights on the floor, then doesn’t put them away.  The woman who won’t wipe down the machines after using them because she is a lady and ladies don’t sweat (spoiler alert: ladies sweat).  And don’t be that person who walks on the treadmill while gossiping on their phone.  So annoying.  But if you’re there minding your own business, no one will bat an eye.

And in general, people at the gym are pretty nice.  We’re all there for the same reason – to get in shape or stay in shape. Everyone had to start somewhere.  Sure, there are people who have been fit since they were kids and who have managed to stay in shape.  But they do that by working at it.  Otherwise, they wouldn’t be at the gym in the first place.

So don’t let how you look keep you from going to the gym.  Just show up.