A Runner Finds Herself—and Her Health

These charts have lit up our Facebook page over the past 16 weeks.
These charts have lit up our Facebook page over the past 15 weeks.

This email landed in our inbox this weekend, and we couldn't not share. (And I couldn't not write a worser constructed sentence.)

Anyway, reading the entry made me think of Magaret Meade's insightful quote: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.

Tweak it in an AMR way to get something like this: Never doubt that a small, thoughtful shift in perspective can't change your world. Indeed, it's the only way to start, as the writer below proves.

"Minnie White" has been a regular poster on our Facebook page, sharing her sticker charts and making slow and steady progress through the Half-Marathon: Finish It Plan. She celebrated when she hit double digits, she couldn't believe she ran in the rain. Through every  nutritional change and every mile, she shed another layer and became closer to her truth.

Who am I?

I’ve asked myself that question so many times over the last 14 months. The answers continue to change.

In December, 2011 when I asked myself that, the answers sounded something like this: I am obese. I am unhealthy. I am irresponsible. I am uncomfortable in my body and in my clothes. I am embarrassed of myself. I am insecure. I am becoming my parents. I am afraid. I am lazy. I am ashamed of who I have let myself become. I am a failure.

Yes, I could still smile and laugh with friends and family, but on the inside I was miserable and crying. I moved nowhere fast but was “running” headlong toward diabetes and poor health, following closely the path my parents had trod to their death and assuming that was my destiny.

“Who am I?” The answers were discouraging and I felt helpless to change and full of fear to try one more time.

“Who am I?” I decided that even though all those things were true, I was not a quitter and must try again.

The journey began with the book, Death to Diabetes by DeWayne McCulley. While reading his book, I realized diabetes was not an inevitable part of my future. Just because it consumed my parents' lives did not mean it had to consume mine.

Next, it was Joe Cross and Phil Staples who showed me that change was possible. Their movie “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead” inspired me to take responsibility for myself and do what I could do. I did a 60-day juice fast and it was the best thing physically I have ever done for myself. Was it easy? No, but the difficulties and frustrations were eased by the support and encouragement received from fellow juicers on a Facebook page, where I received both recipes and motivation.

While drinking juice and wondering what would come next, I read a lot. Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s book, Eat to Live showed me that I had spent my whole life living to eat while being addicted to excessive amounts of food and drink, but that it didn’t have to continue that way. There is a tremendous community of “Nutritarians” on Facebook who have chosen to live to eat and are wonderfully supportive of each other.

Then the movie “Forks over Knives” that explained with undeniable and compelling facts that my previous way of eating and living would only lead to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc., but that there is a better, more reasonable path that really isn’t as extreme as it may at first appear.

I was never one to feel at ease or comfortable in the kitchen—I had about three recipes that were proven stand-bys that I could make for company or take to church suppers—much less in experimenting with new recipes or even searching them out. But Lindsay Nixon, a.k.a. the Happy Herbivore, I own—and actually use—cookbooks on a regular basis. Her marvelous recipes are simple for a novice like me to follow, and the transition from fasting to eating was easy and delicious.

The woman in white—and her pals, Jean and Leslie— discovering who she is, step by step.
The woman in white—and her pals, Jean and Leslie— discovering who she is, step by step.

In January 2012, two dear friends and I began to move….I don’t know that anyone else would call it running exactly, but that’s what we attempted to do. We followed the Couch Potato to 5K program for nine weeks. Upon its completion, we kept running, gradually going farther and getting faster. I stumbled upon another mother runner and immediately felt at home in this “tribe” of women who were seemingly ordinary, but at the same time inspiring other ordinary women to do extraordinary things. It was here that I learned “I am stronger than I thought.”

Countless times I have found myself in various situations with the same haunting question:

“Who am I?” I thought as I purchased a juicer and proceeded to juice things like kale, spinach, beets, and carrots, along with bushels of green apples.

“Who am I?” I thought as I wandered in health food stores wide-eyed and curious looking for  items unfamiliar to me and never before found in my grocery cart.

“Who am I?” I thought as I eagerly purchased cookbooks and stayed up late reading them and anticipating the delicious food I would soon prepare and consume.

“Who am I?” I thought as I searched the sporting goods store for articles of clothing that had previously been foreign to me but were now necessities….running tights, wicking t-shirts, a GPS watch.

“Who am I?” I thought as I purposely got up early on Saturday mornings to run 10 miles or more and thoroughly relished the whole experience.

“Who am I?” I thought as I run in the rain, smiling and laughing like a kid while I splash along. 

“Who am I?” Minnie White?

Well, that’s not completely untrue. That name is a combination of a nickname for my middle name and my maiden name, but it’s not really who I am. I needed a safe place to figure things out, ask dumb questions, celebrate success and be encouraged to keep going on difficult days. I made an additional Facebook account where I could be unknown. I was doing battle with life-long physical and emotional dragons while rethinking and analyzing everything I had ever known about health and nutrition. I felt I couldn’t do this in the public eye and under the close scrutiny of my real Facebook page. So I chose to hide behind a picture of old shoes and socks and enjoy the safety of anonymity.

When I ask myself,  “Who am I?” these days, answers are different:

I am eating to live. I am following a whole food, plant-based diet. I am living every day “plant strong.”  I am overweight, but no longer obese. I have lost 75 pounds and I have every reason to believe the numbers on the scale will continue to go down. I am happy. I am facing the future unafraid and in the best health of my life. I am not my parents. I am energetic. I am more confident. I am a runner. I just completed a half marathon and plan to do so again in three weeks.

The question is not going away for the rest of my life, and the answers will continue to change with each new season of my life. But I know this two things are certain: I will continue to run the course set before me, and I will run with perseverance.

Who am I? I am Alice Barnett.

Alice, medal and smile. We are just so ridiculously proud of you, we can't !!!!!!! enough!!!!!!
The real Alice, all medal and all smile. We're proud like mothers.




60 responses to “A Runner Finds Herself—and Her Health

  1. Thank you for sharing this story, it was so inspiring and courageous! I hope your journey continues to bring more happiness and health your way.

  2. Alice,
    For some reason I’d been putting off reading this post. I must have known it was important and deserved my full attention. This morning on my way to work I thought “Something extraordinary is going to happen today.” And when I took my break to have a cup of tea and read something on-line, I chose to read this AMR post about you. Yep, there’s the extraordinary happening of the day! YOU! Thank you for your honesty and inspiration. I’m bookmarking this post for future doses of extraordinary. Good luck in your continued efforts.

  3. Who are you? AWESOME, that’s what! Truly what an amazing, inspiring, and very vulnerable story. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself to so many strangers. I hope others find strength, motivation, and courage from your words. Good luck with all that you strive to achieve.

  4. Loved your post! A great reminder that we can do anything we set our minds to; just what I needed! I got teary-eyed when I saw your happy, smiley face at the end of your post. You should be very proud of yourself! Thank you for sharing!!

  5. You are AMAZING!!!!!! What an inspiring story!! You are a hero to so many who have not yet read your story, but will. Celebrate every day that you are alive and being a beacon of light to so many!! I am so proud to be in the same tribe as you! You are my sister-friend! Bless you!

  6. Wow, wow, wow!!! What an awesome story. I was feeling very lazy this morning, but I think I will go put on my shoes and head out in celebration of your success and remember what running/healthy choices – one at a time – can do for all of us. You are an amazing lady, Alice! Thanks for sharing your story. 🙂

  7. Very inspiring Alice. Saw the post of the snow in MB, SC. Looked like a really fun time. So glad you have Leslie as your friend, sis in Christ and running buddy. Inspiring post! Run the race w/ perseverance!

  8. Way to go, Alice! You are a true inspiration and proof that we can do whatever we put our minds to!!
    Congratulations and keep up the great work!

  9. WOW!!! inspired!!!! I loved reading this!!! Keep it up and so proud of you!!! I was truly moved by your story – you are a hero of your own making!! 😉 LOVE YAH!!!!!!

  10. Alice, I love your bravery and courage, your belief in yourself and your determination. Thank you for coming out from behind your “fake” name/persona. You have given all of us a bit more courage by doing so.

  11. Way to go, Alice! You are an amazing woman on an amazing journey, and we can all learn a lot from you. Thanks for sharing your story!

  12. Thanks so much for this incredible post — what a gift you have given by sharing so deeply of yourself with all of us. Looking forward to hearing more about your discoveries and journey!

  13. What a great story to wake up to today! Tears of happiness for you! I loved following Minnie White and am so honored to meet Alice Barnett!

  14. Alice, you have inspired me so much these past few months especially when I was injured and couldn’t run. I have 3 months worth of calendars covered with stickers, having exercised in some way everyday over those months. When I put a star or a smiley faced sticker on my calendar after each workout, I think of you. I am so happy that you have found you. Congratulations on your half marathon! Go Alice!!!

  15. You’ve every reason to be very proud. Quite a journey you have been on. Keep trucking along with your fabulous results. 🙂

  16. Alice,
    I’m so inspired by you! I am feeling exactly as you described in the beginning of your journey.
    Thank you for showing me that there is a light at the end of the tunnel!!

  17. Thanks for sharing your story Alice. You are amazing and inspiring! It looks like you were at the Myrtle Beach race on Saturday. I was there too! Thankfully it was on Saturday morning and not Sunday morning! Brr. Great job. 🙂

  18. Great post. Way to go, Alice! I still ask myself often, “Who am I?” but I know it’s not the answer that I really seek; rather it’s the journey to being the best version of myself. Whatever that may be.

  19. Alice, you are an inspiration. What a great story, and you should be proud not just of what you’ve accomplished but also of the courage it took to share all of this. Best of luck!

  20. I love where you are in your story, Alice! Congratulations on continuing to rediscover yourself (and reinvent yourself, too). You’re very inspirational!!!

  21. I too have lost weight by listening to the wisdom of those same documentaries. Isn’t it great that the running can keep you healthy AND sane?

  22. I’m so proud of you!!!!!! Thank you so much for sharing your journey . Wow, wow & wow! This is why I LOVE the tribe. I love that everyone has a story to why they run. Keep up the great work. Love from another running momma in MD.

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