I've always loved to write, so here is my chance to share my thoughts with you. I plan to blog about topics like nutrition, my weight loss journey, running, and balancing a life with kids and a growing business that is my true passion in life.
I hope you enjoy reading my blog as much as I enjoy writing it!
Live in the Skin You're In: Where the Healthy Girl Name Came From
If you know me or have read any of my other blog posts, you may know my relationship with my body is something I struggle with on a daily basis. I decided to post this pic of myself to show the “real” me, but even it isn’t totally real. I’m a chicken. I’m in a dark room and I tried to make it look pretty despite the “squishy” parts of my body that I can’t hide. I don’t look at my body in this very mirror every day and feel like I’ve succeeded. Often I’m disappointed in every flaw that stares back at me. But since I’ve started my own company and decided to call it Healthy Girl Fitness, I thought it was time to explain in more detail what the name is all about.
Growing up, I hated my thighs and butt. I went through puberty very young and by the time I was nine years old, I had all the curves in the places I didn’t want them yet. I had angry red stretch marks on my inner thighs, my hips, and my breasts because my body had grown so rapidly. I just wanted to disappear and look like all the other girls, but boys were already pinching me and snapping my bra straps. It was attention I didn’t welcome, and the girls were mean, saying I was a slut. I wore large flannel shirts and loose pants to try to hide who I was underneath.
When the teenage years came, I would go through periods of time where I’d practically starve myself on rice cakes and water. I’d jump on my parent’s stationary exercise bike and go around and around for hours. Then I’d end up binging on french fries and feeling like a failure. I was not fat but I couldn’t help but compare myself to all the other girls. I didn’t look like them, with their long, slender legs and their perfect perky boobs. That was never going to be me. I didn’t have boyfriends and didn’t even kiss a boy until my senior year in high school.
After high school, I gained a lot of weight once I found myself in a comfortable relationship. It’s the same story a lot of people have. I was in my 20’s and went to bars a lot, drank a lot, ate a lot. Didn’t exercise at all, came home and parked in front of the TV. The weight came on slowly but it felt like overnight that I couldn’t fit in “regular” clothes. I’d gotten to the end of the clothing rack in department stores. I needed to shop in the “fat ladies” section. I rationalized it to myself, saying I was happy and that I could still wear cute clothes even though they were bigger than they had been before.
But that was a lie. A lie to the world and a lie to myself. Some people are happy with those extra pounds, and I would never shame them for living their best life at a plus-size. But that wasn’t me. I felt sluggish and tired all the time and I wouldn’t look in a mirror. I hated getting my photo taken. I was embarrassed to see people. I just didn’t feel like me. So I joined the gym and I worked HARD. And I did it. I got back to the other side of the clothing rack again. And I felt good.
Having babies changed a lot. For some, it’s not until they get pregnant that they really understand that it’s about so much more than them. As soon as you have that baby inside you, you are immediately consumed with the fact that you have to do things that are best for him or her. Suddenly, you can’t eat certain things, or drink, or even over-exert yourself. And once they are born, you have more freedom, but if you are breast feeding, you’re still watching a lot of that. And caring for them means there’s very little time (or sleep!) for you. It’s easy to lose yourself in the shuffle. To put yourself last. To forget you’re something other than a mom.
My body has changed many times over in the 41 years it’s been on earth. I’ve been a size 2 and a size 20 and everything in between. Last year, I was probably at my skinniest and healthiest but it wasn’t easy to maintain. I worked out at least 3 times a week and ran at least 3-4 days a week training for long distances. I watched everything I put into my mouth. My body was strong and I had real muscles, and I truly felt healthy for the first time. But just as I’d felt in my heart at my heaviest, I wasn’t happy this way either.
I’ve decided to let some of that go. Really truly living is important to me. So I want to eat what’s healthy most of the time but to enjoy ice cream with my kids. I want those strong arms I had a year ago, but I also want to go for a walk with my family instead of go to the gym. My kids love my “squishy belly” and all the soft spots. My husband tells me I’m beautiful every day even after having seen everything while birthing our two sons. And my body has done amazing things, and it’s not really fair of me to feel anything but gratitude for that.
I’m not working out as much now. If I made it more of a priority, maybe I would be burning my way through that kickboxing membership I bought, but I’m just not. I’m still running. A lot. More than ever, maybe. But that always has and always will be my thing that’s for me. That’s not about being a mom. We all need that.
When I decided to start my own company, it was a big deal. The girl that hid behind all those clothes was not confident enough to stand in front of people and show her body, for better or worse. I had gone from being very unhealthy to “too healthy,” if that makes sense, and neither were a good fit for who I wanted to be. Because it’s all about balance. Finding that in-between and stretching into it and getting comfortable.
There are many names that circled their way around in my brain when I was deciding what to call my company. I knew I didn’t want it to have anything to do with being skinny. There’s a difference between being skinny and healthy, and I never wanted my clients to make any mistake in that. Healthy Girl was one name that came to me and stuck right away. It was simple but it explained who I aspired to be. Healthy is who I want to define myself as, in body and in mind. I don’t care about those size 2 jeans. That was not a healthy size for my body. I don’t want to be a size 20 either, because that didn’t make me happy either. I just want to feel good, and that doesn’t come with a size tag at all. It changes day to day, week to week, and year to year. Some days I feel like that girl that I was in my 20’s again. And other days I feel much stronger.
I don’t hate my thighs any more. They have taken me on the most marvelous adventures. They know how to go the distance and there are many people who can’t say that. My belly is soft but it held two beautiful babies. My body is not perfect, but right now, in this moment, it’s perfect for me.
Why do you run?
If you’re a runner, you know. Some people just don’t get it. They never will either. In 2006, I ran my first marathon and I printed out the course map and gave my parents all these directions and suggestions for places they could come cheer for me on the course. It was a big deal to me, and I finally wanted them to see what I’d been training so hard for. I’d gone through the breakup of a decade long relationship while training, had run my first 18 miler on the day I had to move, and had literally changed my life from the beginning to the end of this training. I had finally reached the end. So much LIFE got in the way that year, but I had kept running. I just wanted them to see why, even if it was just a glimpse.
That day, I kept looking for them on the course, but I never found them. I finished the race, sure I’d just missed them somehow. It was a big race, after all. I was standing around for close to 15 minutes after I’d finished when my mom found me. She said it was too much of a hassle, so they just decided to meet me afterwards, when I was done. She explained that they “knew I’d run it and everything” and that should be enough. I was crushed. That’s when I got it.
Over the years, I’ve watched eyes glaze over when I talk about races. I’ve bitten my tongue when people ask how long “that marathon” is and I try not to let it bother me when they don’t really care when I explain that every marathon is the same 26.2 miles. I’ve seen my husband get frustrated over my early morning starts on the trails and his lack of sympathy over my aches and pains after a hilly or long day. I’ve shrugged off the concerns for my knees and I try not to correct people who refer to my running as “jogging.”
Whether you are a runner like I am or you’re one of the non-runners I’m talking about, I feel like it’s time to answer the question I get asked the most. And that question is: “Why do you run?”
- Running is just for me. Running has always been the thing I do for myself to make me feel sane, and it’s become even more so since having kids. I feel like I give to other people all day long. To my family, to my friends, to my clients, and even to strangers sometimes. I need something in my life that’s purely self-centered. On occasion, I’ll take the dog with me or I’ll run a few laps with my kids, but those are what I’d consider “bonus runs.” The runs I do for myself aren’t necessarily alone. In fact, I prefer running with other people. But I don’t do it for anyone but myself. No matter what’s going on in my life, a run always makes me feel better and I’ll never regret the choice to lace up and get out there. Maybe it is selfish, but it does make me a much nicer human being, which others will benefit from as well. So it’s a win-win.
- Running means I never get sick. Before I became a runner, I was guaranteed to get sick at least once a year, generally in the winter. Now it’s very rare that I get sick at all, and often when I feel like I’m going to be a little under the weather, I’ll get a bit of a “mini-cold” before my immune system jumps in and takes it away. Many years back, I got into a horrible bike accident that cut me up pretty bad, but within a week, many of my wounds had almost completely healed up. I credit running with strengthening my immune system so that I can fight stuff off so much easier. When someone takes my blood pressure or checks my pulse, it sometimes has to be done twice because people are surprised it’s so low. When I was having my first son, every single nurse who came into my hospital room to check my heartrate remarked on it. I told them all I was a runner and they all said that “explained it.”
- Running means I see things I wouldn’t see otherwise. People have marveled how I can get up at 5:00AM to run, or even 4:00AM. Yes, I’m that crazy runner. But I’ve seen the sun rise on many runs, and it’s well worth those mental snapshots that I’ll never forget. I’ve watched the leaves change colors day to day and I’ve even experienced the seasons shift while running. This sounds like an exaggeration, but I’ve felt the temperatures drop and watched everything ice over while on a long run and it’s completely surreal. I’ve run through rainstorms, hail, and snow. Maybe this doesn’t sound fun to you, but it’s been exhilarating. I’ve literally climbed mountains, from Mt Bachelor, OR to Copper Mountain, CO. I’ve run through several states, on beaches, through forests, and on some of the most beautiful country roads ever, and I don’t think I could truly experience this beauty any other way. It’s not the same in a car. It’s not the same in pictures. I’m getting out there and feeling the wind in my hair and feeling the strength of being alive and it’s unlike anything else.
- Running gave me a life. Before I was a runner, I was overweight and desperate for some sort of direction or fulfillment in life. I had no friends or ambition. I met so many wonderful people by joining a running community and I felt accepted from the beginning. There are so many types of runners out there now, and we are literally going through the same things at the same time. Fast or slow, we are all putting in those same miles, running over those same hills, and tackling the same hurdles. I met people who have become some of my best friends through running, including the maid of honor at my wedding. Putting in long miles every week with people when you’re feeling tired and vulnerable bonds you like nothing else in life. Add this to the fact that you’re running side by side rather than face to face, with no distractions from phones and outside factors, and you have yourself something akin to a confessional. You also often have a standing running date, and maybe even someone to have coffee with afterwards.
- Running saved my life. I couldn’t go up a flight of stairs without feeling winded before I started running. I was at risk for diabetes and I was very depressed. When I pushed my body to do amazing things, I found out that I could actually DO amazing things. I went from being shy and lacking confidence to proving to everyone, including myself, that I was a force to be reckoned with. I found myself taking risks I never would have before I had the confidence to go the distance. The girl who was scared to talk in front of the class in high school was suddenly leading a group exercise class. The self-proclaimed “fat girl” was no longer following the running coach, she was leading the group and coaching them to do their best. I found myself. I never knew my body and mind as well as I did once I started running. The farther I’ve gone and the more miles I’ve worn on my feet, the more secure I am in what I’ve learned and who I am. When you think you’ve reached the bottom of what you can take, you dig deeper and find that there’s more inside.
- Running taught me to be grateful. Running is the most humbling thing. Even if you’ve put in the work, you’re going to have bad days. You’re going to have good days too, and sometimes there will be as little rhyme and reason for those days as there is for the bad ones. You just never know. That’s the frustrating thing but it’s also what makes you cherish the stuff you’ve worked so hard for. It’s just like it is in life, really. You wouldn’t appreciate the journey if it was always easy. The rough paths to the top make you appreciate the view so much more than you ever could if it were easy to get there. Do what others can’t. Every time a race gets hard, I think about all of the things in life that could be harder. It helps. Keep going.
For a bit more on this topic, read my blog post on Run Oregon.
You never know what someone else’s journey is, or where it’s taking them. You’ve heard that you should “never judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes.” Maybe it has no meaning to you because you’ve heard it so many times, but it’s so true.
After I had my first son, running was difficult. Not only was I not getting any sleep and feeling sluggish all the time (to put it mildly!) my body didn’t seem to know what to do anymore. I felt all put together wrong. I was breast-feeding and to even consider running meant a lot of planning and timing everything just right. Sometimes it didn’t seem worth it for a short run, especially when I had to walk so much. Sometimes, I’d take my son out with me in a stroller and that was harder than I could have imagined. I couldn’t understand how some people out there with strollers made it look so easy, just gliding along like it was nothing. I was not a glider. I was a hot mess who looked like I needed a medic.
But at least when I had the stroller, I felt like people passing by could look at me and give me that knowing nod. They understood, on at least some level, why it was hard. But when it was just me alone, I felt I had no excuse. Forget the fact that I was only 5 weeks postpartum. Or even 20 weeks postpartum. What I wanted, more than anything, was a sign on the back of my shirt explaining why I was so slow. It would explain “please excuse me, I just had a baby,” (even when he wasn’t a baby anymore.)
The same thing happened when I had my second son, but it was even harder because I was still trying to catch up from having my first son 2 years earlier. I went for a walk on the beach pushing a stroller and I was sore for days, and that was my turning point. I worked hard, harder than I think I ever have, to get myself back in shape. I worked so I wouldn’t need that sign for my back anymore.
But here’s the thing, and it’s going to sound harsh. No one cares. No one but you. This is YOUR journey, and you have to do what makes YOU happy. No one else is even paying attention. I mean, sure people care about you. They want you to be healthy. But they don’t really need to know why you’re slower this year than you were last year, or why you’re not signing up for as many races. They probably don’t even notice, to be honest. They just want to know you’re okay. They’ve got their own challenges to deal with without concerning themselves with yours.
I’m currently gearing up for my 4th ultramarathon, and getting in back to back runs is an important element to my training so I can experience running on tired legs. So I ran a 6 miler recently the day after a 19 miler and my legs felt like lead. It was great training, but I felt like that postpartum runner again. And I felt it even more so when a super fit runner came blowing past me from the opposite direction without acknowledging me in the slightest. My first thought was that he was an asshole. But then I realized that was only because I felt like the kid who never got picked to be on anyone’s team in gym class. Which, by the way, I WAS THAT KID. And then I thought “I bet HE didn’t run 19 miles yesterday!!” And then, “well, maybe he did. How do I know? And how would he? And WHY does that matter anyway?” Because it really doesn’t. He’s got his mission and I’ve got mine.
I have friends who are overweight and run marathons. I also know some people that look fit enough to fly like the wind and it takes them twice as long to run a race than it would for me. I have friends with asthma and shin spints and injuries who still run. I have friends who have babies who get right out and run without skipping a beat and others who have never had babies and are still considered slow on their best days. I have fast days and slow days and mostly days in-between. All of it is great. All of it is getting it DONE. It doesn’t matter where the finish line is. It’s that you got there, whether you ran, walked, or crawled.
I have clients with lofty aspirations. Some want to run their first marathons. Some want to run a race a month. Some want to beat a certain PR. Goals are good. They help drive us and motivate us to push harder. But we always have to be careful because they can destroy us too, if we don’t get there right away or even at all. I never want to forget it’s about the journey to get somewhere that matters more than the destination itself. There’s another cliché saying for you.
I remind my clients that you can’t compare yourself to anyone else. What makes us great is that we are all different. I could easily compare myself to my friend who runs fast in an effortless fashion, but her legs are twice as long as mine. And there are so many other factors involved too. You don’t know what that girl on the track ate for breakfast or what she did yesterday that could affect her today. You don’t know if that guy had a good day today or a bad one last week. Because we all have “those days.” You don’t know if he has more fast twitch muscles or if she has more slow twitch muscles. You don’t know their struggles, their victories, or what’s going on in their lives either. And even if you do, those things aren’t yours. You do YOU. Make your goals, but make them for YOU. Don’t hold a yardstick up to anyone else. And if you don’t quite get to where you had wanted, give yourself some grace. It’s okay to fall. It makes victory so much sweeter when you get back up.
Fat on the Inside
I remember this day clearly in my head despite the fact that it was a day B.K. (“Before Kids” which seems like forever ago in relation to most things.) I was shopping for some new clothes and I held up a pair of size 6 jeans. They looked so tiny! I thought to myself that there was no way I could fit into those, but I felt I should at least TRY to get them on to see where I was in my weight loss journey. I added them to my pile and soon headed to the dressing room. When I got to the jeans in question, I slid them on and buttoned them. They fit.
I took them off and looked at the tag on them. Both the outside tag and the inside one. Both said they were, as I thought, a size 6. But how was that possible? Was this size 6 more like a size 10 or 12 somewhere else? Were they supposed to be a baggy fit or something? No.
This. This is what happens when you lose a lot of weight. Because even when your body changes, even when the workouts get easier, even when the scale number has changed significantly, and when people tell you that you look great and to “keep it up” and everything is less of a struggle and the mirror looks different than it used to .. Even when all of those things happen .. You still don’t get it. You still don’t realize it. Your brain hasn’t caught up to your body yet. You’re still fat on the inside.
I went from a size 20 to a size 6. I didn’t even feel the numbers going down because I didn’t buy all the “in between” sizes. It was too expensive and I was too cheap. And honestly, I didn’t know if I’d be able to keep the weight off. Just as many people have “skinny jeans” they aspire to wear someday in their closets, I had “fat jeans.” A safety net. So when I finally got to a size 6, I not only didn’t think there was any possible way that I could get my big thighs or enormous butt into them, but if I did, I didn’t know how long they would last.
People treat you differently when you lose weight. You don’t even notice it so much when you’re at your heaviest, though you are painfully aware of the fact that maybe that cute guy isn’t looking at you because he’s not interested in “your type.” But in everyday life, you’re just doing just that, living. And then you lose weight and people are literally opening doors for you. And looking you in the eye when they talk to you. And sometimes those cute guys are even checking you out. Some people are nicer to you. And other people, the more insecure ones, might even be not-so-nice. You start to notice these things, but you still might not associate it with dropping some dress sizes. Because you’re still the same person, right?
Except you’re not. You’ve changed. And people’s reactions to you have changed too. But what’s even harder is what’s going on inside your head, because you’ll never be able to see what others do. It takes time for you to change what you are, but that’s what you have to do when you lose weight. Accepting it is harder than you may have realized.
I used to go home after work and eat and watch TV. I started going to the gym instead and doing some more “mindful eating” and found a different lifestyle actually made me happier than the food used to. However, it took a long time for me to accept that life was different from here on out, that this wasn’t just a “phase” I had to get through before going back to my old life. Your brain is the last thing to make peace with those changes. There are so many things associated with the comfort of food and the rituals of eating. Memories are directly connected with smells and tastes. Acceptance is part of getting healthier, and this is a life lesson, not just something you connect with in AA. Knowing that you can’t go back is both exhilarating and scary. You have to mourn that life a bit in order to move on. You have to break-up with those bad habits. In my opinion, it’s okay to come back and visit sometimes so you don’t relapse completely. Just not every night, or even most nights. But if you think you have to live on broccoli and never get ice cream again, you’re going to go a little insane eventually. Like with anything, there’s some safety in moderation. And in limits.
To be clear, I’m not telling anyone that they have to be skinny to be happy. Happiness, love, and all the beautiful things in life come in every shape and size. And I am certainly not one to talk, because I am not built like a barbie doll. I have soft curves and cellulite and stretch marks and hips and thunderous thighs. And that’s, for the record, because I love food. All the food. Food will always be my biggest weakness. I can run 20 miles tomorrow, but I can’t leave that piece of chocolate cake in the fridge uneaten. But I also know I’m not willing to stop really “living,” and food and the happiness that goes with it is a part of that. No matter your size .. a size 0 or a size 25.. it’s what we were given and it might go up and down and no matter what, we should wear it. Stretch out and prance around in it. It’s a lot to be grateful for.