The Emotional Body

Formative Years Of Body Crap
I was raised in Fayetteville, Arkansas, a college town with an excess of gorgeous Sorority girls and All-American cheerleading types.  I didn’t exactly fit that mold.

8years old, fattest one in the class

I received a lot of name-calling in my youth, “Fatso” for my body, “Anteater” and assorted other bon mots for my nose.  Many tears were shed from grade school through Jr. High over my looks.  I finally got it together around 9th grade when I realized my passcard through life would be Brains.  While certainly not as satisfying as I imagined 5’8″, blonde and perky to be, it would do.

Reality Bites
It’s funny when I think that one of my most shattering discoveries about my body was after I’d left for greener pastures and returned home to Fayetteville for a visit.  I was crossing the UofA campus plaza to enter the Student Union.  The entrance was not notable in any way, just a couple glass doors with glass panels on either side, but as I approached it, I saw for the first time that I had cellulite on the front of my thighs.  I knew I had it on the back and sides, but this was a terrible revelation.  Every step I took towards these doors filled me with one more moment of unexpected horror as my dimples reflected back at me.

That stuck with me for, oh…the next two and a half decades.  From that moment on, whenever I looked into a full-length mirror, my front-thigh cellulite was the first thing I’d focus on (before shifting to the myriad of other body disappointments, of which there were many).  Happily and shockingly, running eventually got rid of it, which I never thought possible.  It was a miracle and why Running is indeed my religion.

The Schizo Body Owner
As I mentioned in the last post, I’d gone back and forth with my weight for many, many years – my high was about 145 and my low was 106.

I think this is age 17 before moving to NYC. I lost weight for the big move.

Must have been 20 years old here.

While I truly hated being heavy, I still managed to find positive things to focus on.  Pear-shaped, I hated my big hips but was grateful for an always discernible waistline.  I hated my arms, but my calves and ankles were pretty good.  I even found the grace of a clavicle or delicate wrists a semi-worthy consolation prize.  When the rest depresses you, you hold onto those bits and pieces like a life-preserver.

That said, while I hated a lot of it, I also accepted myself, I wasn’t afraid of showing my body.  Not one of those people to cover themselves up at a swimming pool or dress in shapeless clothing, I always had a strong sense of self.  For this, I’m entirely thankful and have nothing but empathy and heartache for women who are painfully ashamed of their bodies.  How I wish they could know what it’s like not to be so self-conscious and afraid.

What Running Did
Running changed my body completely.  In a very short time, I became an alien creature to myself.  I’m still not used to it entirely, especially because it was so unexpected and unplanned.  It’s one thing to lose weight and be smaller, but to have the whole package come out different is weird.  Fabulously cool, but genuinely weird.  It’s like I got an acting role as “The athlete” for a while.

Body Irony
After all those years of fighting fat and fearing getting bigger, I’ve now done a 180° – dealing with trepidation about getting smaller.

Because of my age, I have anxiety that I’ll look older and uglier, that my skin will hang and not snap back, that I’ll look too manly (funny how I despised my big hips my whole life but now that I don’t have them, I sometimes miss those female curves).  Anyway, the ridiculousness of it is that I can always gain the weight back if those things happen, but it goes a bit deeper.

I still hear my Ex asking “You’re not going to lose any more weight, are you?” and my friend asking “You’re not going to turn into one of those super scary runner chicks, are you?”  Well-meaning questions, but completely external and nothing to do with me, really.  My Ex was understandably sad at seeing the boobs and butt go but he also had major issues about my running (also understandable) which came out in assorted passive-aggressive ways and is a big part of why I left – yet here I am almost a year later, still holding on to those admonishments.  And I know my friend is well aware of how pragmatic I am that I’d never do anything irresponsible, so it’s time to let that go too.

Which brings me to…

My Revised Weight Goal
While running yesterday, I was passed by a woman in her 40s, about my height with a similar petite frame, who had the body I envision for myself: lean, muscles showing with every step, lithe and strong, looked like she could Kick. Ass.  If she’d have stopped at a fountain, I’d have boldly asked her how much she weighed – it sure as shit wasn’t 115.

I’d been thinking about revising the goal anyway, so here’s the dealio: 110ish…as long as it feels right and is easy to manage. Before anyone goes all Intervention on me and thinks I’m an anorexic in the making (no fucking way), here’s me at 115.  Excuse the ugly eel face, that’s me completing a damn good kick to the finish.

Because when you think about it, there’s not a whole lot that separates me from my competition (aside from those with more natural talent): I’ve got the body type, I’ve got the training know-how, I’m respectful of keeping muscle and running a clean engine, why not take it to the next level?  Why care as much as I do but stop short of real commitment?  Because that’s the only difference as far as I can see.

In a month, I’ll be 49.  I’ve been through a ton of incarnations in that time and I’m sure as hell not done yet.  So let’s just see how close to Athlete I can actually get.

44 thoughts on “The Emotional Body

  1. Greenlee

    Wow, a lot of good introspection here. I have to say that running high mileage and weight loss don’t mix. I find that the more I run, the hungrier I get and there is just no way to “trick” my body into thinking it’s had enough to eat. My most successful weight loss was actually coming off an injury and, running 20-30 miles per week and not being all that hungry. I am not telling you that you can’t do it, but I don’t want this to have the reverse effect: decreased performance due to not enough fuel. I’ll get off my soapbox, but I think that photo of you at 115 looks like an amazingly fit, fast woman and I wouldn’t want to see you any thinner.

    1. Flo Post author

      We’re in different places with our running, wouldn’t you agree? And our weight loss experiences differ, too – I’m actually losing weight quite rapidly with a healthy diet (same as I did last year). Workouts are going great as well, so no complaints from me. Why not wait to see me at 110 before you say you don’t want to see me less than 115. :)

      1. Greenlee

        Maybe I should have rephrased– I don’t want to see you “struggling” to be any thinner. If it works for you and you aren’t losing energy, then that would be awesome.

        1. Flo Post author

          Thanks, Babe, you’re a sweetie to check in again. If it was a struggle, I wouldn’t do it (wouldn’t be able to do it…I’m not a huge fighter in that regard). :-)

  2. Jim E

    Flo, your face is quite recognizable in that 8yo pic, but not the rest of you. Having met you in person it’s hard to imagine you were ever chubby. I’ve never thought of runner-chicks as being scary, but perhaps some guys feel challenged. Go for it, and good luck with the new goal!

    1. Flo Post author

      Thank you Jim, you don’t know how much I appreciate hearing the lack of worry in your comment. I’d hug you if you were next to me.

  3. Bill

    That story probably rings true to more people than you think.
    I was the talk lanky awkward kid growing up, but the best time is when you go back to your High School reunion, and you see the jocks or cheerleaders who thought they were the hottest thing, look like a train wreck!
    I just went to my 25th last Sept, and I get the “you haven’t aged”, from the bald,fat soccer capt, who looked like Leif Garret in the 70’s!
    Same with the girls, the cheerleader who was a knockout in HS, is the divorced mess with 2 kids who looks like she spent the last 25yrs in a bar!
    Those are the bennys of running that non-runners don’t get.

    1. Flo Post author

      Our classmates are similar. :D I’ve been evil and scoped out whomever I could on Facebook just to gloat. It’s so satisfying.

  4. Tobey

    Bravo on so many levels Flo! Scary runner chick? I never met one that I felt was scary. I love that lean look, and marvel at it every time I race, as they get farther and farther in front of me…

    1. Flo Post author

      Yay Tobey, thank you so, so much for the lack of judgment, it’s truly appreciated! I think people are expecting a skull on sticks or something.

  5. Lauren

    I applaud your candor, Flo, with revealing your past body issues, and I, like many women, also can relate. I know I don’t comment that often, but I do enjoy your blog every week, and I would never think you were in danger of going too low on the scale. You seem too in-tune with your body. Either way, you look great!

    1. Flo Post author

      Thank you, Lauren! I am highly in tune with my body, I just wish I could convince any doubters that I’m not going to do one of those TV movies of the week [Reflection in mirror of obese girl. Camera pans out to anorexic body]. Btw, your avatar always cracks me up.

  6. BlackBear

    I LOVE the little kid pic! So cute!!! Weight means nothing to me — I need the full details from the “Tanita Body Composition Monitor.” You’re nobody unless your “physique age rating” on the tanita is 26 years old. hahahha

    Great post!

  7. Betjet

    Ahhh…the eagerly awaited “Emotional Body” blog entry! I have been looking forward to this one ya know. Mainly because we are just about the same age, same weight, etc and I also wonder where is that line? My biggest problem is that with my mileage I am ALWAYS hungry so it is just about impossible to drop those few measly pounds. Plus I really really DRAG if I cut the cals too much. I guess it is just finding the right balance….and that’s why I am enjoying these diet/body posts so much. Overall I do eat pretty healthy but I am sure if I fine tuned my diet just a touch, eating the right combination of foods at the right times, I think those pounds would disappear. I just can never do that!

    And to Bill – I attended my 25th HS reunion this past winter and just LOVED it. Being pretty much the wallflower/blend in background type in HS I was (secretly of course) ecstatic when I overheard some of the jock guys trying to figure out who I was :)! Living well is always the best revenge!

    Keep ’em coming Flo! and good luck the revised goal. I too think you look great, well maybe that facial expression could use some work:), in your 115 pic.

    1. Flo Post author

      Bet, I can’t say enough about the meal timing thing. I’ve been counting calories since the 23rd. I was hungry quite a bit but was stupidly eating over half those calories at night and would have a bloated stomach when I went to bed (ate a lot of fruit). So of course during the day I would look at the clock some and eat a carrot to tide me over. Now that it’s evenly spaced, I’m not hungry one bit. The carrots are withering at the bottom of the veggie drawer.

      Also, I’m going to post about what I’m actually eating so you can see what kind of meals I have. Of course, we’re all different and you have a kid(s)so you’re more active than me. I’m pretty sedentary aside from running so you likely need more calories.

  8. Kazz

    Sounds like you have a healthy mindset about weight loss, Flo. I used to weigh more, and soooooo know what you mean about the runner body being so new, strange, and foreign. You’re not in Scary Runner Chick-ville now-nothing wrong with really focusing on good nutrition and making the best possible choices. I say this to myself, too, since I also think it’s time for me to focus on doing the things that helped me weigh 133 at the time of my marathon PR. It’s all about listening to your body, and you’re a smart lady who will pay attention to what it’s telling you.

    1. Flo Post author

      Hugs and smoochies Kazz, this positive reinforcement is getting me all vaclempt. Very cool that you’re going for the same deal, too. Here’s to us beautiful running chicks getting leaner and faster. Watch out AG bitches! :D

  9. Jackie

    Flo, I like that you gave your full story before dropping the weight loss plan. That was a very responsible way of putting that information out there. I say that because I’m sure a lot of women out there follow you and pattern themselves after you. I have been trying to help RiP with his weight and I have found that it’s amazing how your body and hunger change when you eat more healthy foods and eat at more proper times. I can’t wait to see how this goes. You’re a smart one and will know if this isn’t a good idea. Although you look great now!XOXOXHG

    1. Flo Post author

      Aw Jackie, you’re my baby girl, I swear. :-) And yeah, this is the messy part about all this, because I’m old and know myself really well by this time, but the end goal could be messed up in the hands of someone still figuring themselves out. Though actually, maybe some future posts of what I’m eating will be helpful because it is certainly healthy no matter how old the person is eating it.

      How’s RiP doing with it? Post here or email me, you know I love hearing about this stuff.

      1. Jackie

        It’s really basic stuff. He cut out snacking, tries to eat a snack before our run. One of the things we have going on is we have lunch at 11/12 and don’t have dinner until 7+pm (post run and shower). We are starving by that point. He is finding healthier things he can eat during the day so our dinner is light (salad) and he is trying to eat smaller portions. Today he is trying to eat something within the first hour of waking up. Lots of subtle changes. We are focusing on eating at home the majority of the time, which is tough given our schedules. The other things is those that are worried about going beyond the initial loss. RiP lost 30# three years ago when he started running and stayed there. Only now (like you) is thinking, ‘I could drop down a little more’. He doesn’t have any food issues. I think we all kind of think that if we run all these miles we should be able to eat what we want. Not so. It all just takes us making habits of these types of things just like the habits of eating what we want and when. Sorry so long.

        1. Flo Post author

          Sorry for what? That’s exactly the kind of info I lap up! Sounds like we’re very similar in the changes, portion control, eating before a run…good stuff! And I can imagine it’s hard for you guys, with the business to deal with.

          So true about the myth “eating what we want”. I told a couple non-running friends I was trying to lose a couple pounds and they both said “You’re a runner, you’re supposed to be able to eat all you want!”. I replied, “I wish.” But really, that’s not even a sensible thing to wish, when you think of it. So in a way, this whole “diet” thing puts the spotlight on eating correctly, which is never a bad thing to relearn. Makes it less about quantity than quality while at the same time, leaving you more sated in the end. Fascinating subject, this.

  10. Jenn

    Flo, I’ve been reading your posts on food and weight with great interest. This issue is near and dear to me since, as I told you previously, I was obese less than 3 years ago (I weighed 228 when I started my “new lifestyle”).
    I’m in a negative pattern right now of yo-yo-ing since my injury sidelined me. Emotional eating is something I thought I’d gotten under control until I had to relinquish control of my body to a surgeon and since then it’s been a HUGE struggle. Prior to CECS I was SO active that even if I ate a little something from the wrong column all the calories I was burning took care of it and I enjoyed it, too much. I stopped eating so healthy because I didn’t “have to.” I think people don’t realize that eating well and exercising have to go together!
    It’s clear you DO realize that. I applaud you for all your research and smart thinking about this subject and I have no doubt you will see for yourself how these new changes affect you and whether you like that effect from a performance perspective instead of from a pure vanity perspective. Continue to log things and read back on how things were and you’ll know if you’re accomplishing what you set out to accomplish.
    Also, I want to say thanks for being open about all this because it’s timely for me and literally forces me to think about this painful subject. I’m thrilled to hear that it’s not painful anymore for you and I look forward to seeing how this all pans out for you.
    Every day is a chance to start fresh and so far today has been a great day.

    1. Flo Post author

      Jenn, my heart goes out to you in so many ways. But first, super insane congratulations for going from 228, that’s such an achievement! I have such admiration for you, which I did already because you’re such a cool, multi-faceted girl. I really feel for you being sidelined as you’ve been. Feel free to call me anytime to talk about this stuff…in fact, we need to have that lunch date one of these days, huh? I bet we’d have a few hours worth of chatter in us from the get-go.

      I love your closing line, btw. It’s so true, every day is another opportunity. May tomorrow be as great as your today, girl.

      1. Jenn

        Thanks, Flo. Any time, for that lunch, really. The next couple weeks are stressful for me but after that we need to get together!

  11. ESG/Ron

    Great post about the up-and-down journey to self-acceptance. It’s so loaded for girls/women, that it’s a joy to see any of you understand yourself so well. However long it might have taken, it’s clear that you have a lot of “it” figured out. Kudos on that, and especially on sharing it with the perhaps-less-enlightened masses.

  12. Cathleen

    I envy this “comfort-in-your-own-skin” you’ve gained as you’ve lived, and I hope to be in that place someday too! I’m…getting there — I’ve shed some of the body insecurities of adolescence, but there’s still plenty of it following me into my twenties. As others have mentioned in comments on prior posts, I love how matter-of-fact you are about the goal weight and the reasons for paring down to it. I hope the goal weight brings you the running improvements you are seeking. Good luck :)

    1. Flo Post author

      Thanks Cathleen. I wish I could hurry time for you younger gals, because I’d say that’s a major part of it, just having lived through enough stuff until you finally say “I’m sick of this!” and change it. Very much like the few addictions I’ve had during my life, lol. I wish upon you peace of mind and a quicker route than I took to find it, sounds like you’re on your way already. Yay!!

  13. Steph

    I’ve seen quite a few way too thin women recently, but I trust your judgement. I think you look fine at 115 though, but it’s your body so go for it

    also what race is that pic from?

    1. Flo Post author

      Don’t worry girl, I’ll still have some meat on my bones, there’s enough fat to keep me afloat for some time. I was just thinking how I rarely see scary skinny chicks in the park, though there is this one mother who pushes a double carriage and really does not look healthy.

      That pic’s from the Lehigh Valley Half, May of last year.

  14. Steph

    Haha I’m pretty sure I know exactly who you’re talking about. My sister and I also always see this young woman like our age that looks like she has baby arms and didn’t grow properly

  15. Ewen

    I’m not worried about you Flo. From the 115 photo, my considered opinion is you could go to 110, looking athletic and far from anorexic. You’d look fine at 110ish, and be faster, so why not?

    1. Flo Post author

      Bless you, Sweet Ewen, Bless you. I’ve always respected your opinion in that past and certainly do on this subject as well. :D Thanks for the positive comment, Aussie Man.

  16. Tobey

    Flo, I have gone back and re-read this post, (you know I can’t get enough of you), and I had to chuckle at some of the references, (anteater?) I don’t think I heard that one in school. I was the “shrimp”. I was only 5’2″ the end of my sophomore year and,like you, found that I could outsmart my opponents and not get beaten up. I did finally grow, which changed my perspective on lots of things; but funny how I still remember being short, and that was 38 years ago! BTW re: the nose, I have seen bigger on smaller people, and besides, there’s something to say for aerodynamics. Cute little pug noses are highly overated IMHO. (Also kudos for using vaclempt in your reply);)

    1. Flo Post author

      Tobey, that is so cute. You get double points for reading it twice! :D Really sucks how stupid and mean kids are but I guess it does lead us to become stronger people in the end. Glad you were able to literally grow out of it. As for Anteater, it was tough at the time but didn’t affect me enough to ever consider a nose job…so screw ’em, the little bastards! hee

  17. Sara(MichiganMama)

    Hey Flo,
    I’m really enjoying your recent posts on weight and all the complexities that come with it. As a former anorexic, I am super sensitive to posts like this, and you have relayed your thoughts in a really responsible manner. I, too, am tinkering with my diet a bit to see how it affects my performance. My Tanita says things are good, so rather than cutting calories, I have really cut back on sugar and my beloved diet soda. Wow, what a difference in my paces! Given my osteoporosis and recent stress fracture, I am hesitant to drop weight, so for now, I’ll focus on what goes in the engine. Good luck with your goal, and keep the updates coming! xoxo Sara

    P.S. Someday we’ll trade stories about the nicknames our beloved big schnozes have received! :)

    1. Flo Post author

      Sara, thanks so much for that, it’s always a worry that I’ll inadvertently say the wrong thing with this subject so your saying it was responsible has me breathing out a sigh of relief.

      Super cool that you’re changing some habits and seeing some great pace differences out of it. You’re a fast girl to begin with so I’m looking forward to what this coming year will bring for you. Bet you’re going to rock the house!

      And lol on us being schnoz buddies. :D

  18. Stacy

    Love your blog and LOVE your most recent posts on weight and body image and finding the weight that best serves your running. I can so relate to your experiences and it’s a nice reminder that I’m on the right path with my own running.

    1. Flo Post author

      Thanks so much! I’m really beginning to see how universal a subject this is. May you find your perfect balance easily and effortlessly!

  19. Martina

    Flo, I read your blog entry yesterday but needed to think about this for a while. Not sure that I am done thinking but regardless…fascinating subject! Equally fascinating are the responses your post received. I appreciate what you reveal of yourself on this blog and your ‘take no BS’ attitude. I don’t know about you, but my willingness to tolerate BS is trending closer towards zero the older I get (of course I am much much younger than you are!! I think 14 months ;-). 115 or 110 lbs. – I don’t think that’s ‘really’ the important question, for others that might mean 135 or 130 or whatever. To me what all this means is not to judge, not to assume, to think outside the box, and to be true to yourself. Not sure I am making sense here or that I am getting across what I really want to say…probably should have thought about it a bit longer ;-).

    1. Flo Post author

      Martina, that is an utterly lovely comment. Thank you! And you thought about it for the perfect length of time, lol. Also, you are exactly right about getting older helping us to have a “take no BS” attitude. It really does give you more allowance to simply be yourself. It’s also freeing in that once you start saying whatever shit you want, you find people still like you anyway. :)

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