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One #FindYourStrong Marathon, Two Voices: Weighty Matters


Feeling good to have officially started training.

Heather and Marianne, two long-distance BRFs, are going to document their #FindYourStrong Marathon training weekly on Tuesdays. Although training has started, it's only started for the first two waves (marathons on October 3-4 and 10-11). Registration is still open for all waves, and will be open through June 19. Marianne is taking over both voices today because the topic is more in her wheelhouse and Heather is off enjoying her 10th wedding anniversary and will be back to writing here next week.

Something that I have been mulling as I wrapped the No Limits winter challenge and started this one is how I, and others, change perspectives.

I’ve spent almost a year using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), specifically the Beck Diet Solution, to change my relationship with food and to augment my Weight Watchers systems of tracking points and attending weekly meetings. If you’re someone for whom food has been a struggle, I highly recommend checking it out.  One of my most powerful takeaways from the books has been “Just because you have a thought, doesn’t mean it’s true." It turns out, I am one with a lot of untrue thoughts. Although I primarily utilize Beck for weight loss/maintenance, I’ve noticed how similar my changes in running, food, and running + food thoughts have been.

Old Thought: I can’t have chips in the house because if I open the bag I eat the whole thing.

New Truth: I am a person who makes choices and I can plan for and enjoy one serving of chips.

Old Thought: I can’t run when it's too hot/ too cold/ too windy or I'm too tired/ too busy/too lazy.

New Truth: Barring injury or illness, I run what the plan says. Maybe I’ll need a walk break. But I will do the work.

Old Thought: The reason I run is to eat more.

New Truth: How I am eating impacts how my runs feel. Rather than seeing a run as a gateway to more calories, I think about how to fuel my body before and during my runs to make them as pleasant as possible.

This past week, I got some pretty significant practice on how I think when it comes to running. My car had a cracked engine block that would cost as much to repair as the car was worth, so instead of doing that, I took a very brief field trip from New Jersey to Ohio. My brother sells cars and had a used one that was deemed the perfect replacement by my husband. I burned some frequent flier miles, left Wednesday night, and packed 95% running stuff and 5% other things.

(Almost) ready for a running centered getaway.

I went to bed, excited for 8 flat, fun, Midwestern miles on Thursday. I planned to make part of it a run to the cemetery to visit my mom and break for a Gu. I knew my favorite podcast, Reply All, would have a new episode to get me through the first two miles, which are almost always a struggle.  I would finish in time for breakfast with my dad, head out to get the car, and then drive 450 miles home so I could sleep and be at an important meeting on Friday morning.

It was going to be amazing.

Except I forgot what might be the only thing you cannot easily replace at 7 a.m. in NE Ohio. No, not my shoes. (I wore those on the plane so I wouldn't forget them.)

I forgot a sports bra.

Back in the 90’s, Big K and Wal Mart (no Target yet) were open 24/7. In 2015, neither was open until 9 a.m.. I was disappointed, but realized I could run the 8 on Friday and figure out the rest of the weekend later. Perhaps I’d run the North Jersey Pride 5k on Sunday and call it the tempo.

What was more important than this backup plan, though, was my own response. There was a long time in my life where this blip would have been more than just a missed run. It would have been a long duration opportunity to ruminate. Perhaps about how I plan big and fail hard. Or how I might have good ideas, but terrible execution. Or how my identity as a runner was a giant scam and the jig was up. Etc., etc. The reason I didn't frame it like this on that Ohio morning is due to practicing Beck principles for eating—and finding they also change how I think in almost every other domain of my life.

I referenced in my intro post that my brother and I have lost a sum total of 190 pounds. Ninety of those belonged to me. I earned every last one of them in college. Here’s one of my favorite before photos and one from May's triathlon at the same angle for contrast.

Marianne at her highest weight with the same friend as last week's triathlon photo, Sara.
Sara is still by my side.
Sara is still by my side.

I lost those pounds in fits and starts and redos over the course of 9 years. But I did not change my thinking around who I was. In fact, I knew I had not changed me when I attended a Weight Watchers meeting on how long-term weight loss requires an identity change to someone who is a healthy person. I sat there and thought “Oh, well I guess you better not get too attached to your current weight because you’re just a fat girl renting a thin body.” Over the next few months, I gained 20 pounds, then got pregnant with Joyce and gained another 50+.

A very pregnant Marianne and a moderately pregnant Heather in 2011.
A very pregnant Marianne and a moderately pregnant Heather in 2011.

It took me a few years to get back to goal weight again and this time I did actively work on changing my identity to one centered on health.  I now view weight loss as a happy byproduct of better eating and thinking, not the reason to do it. Changing my identity got tremendously easier once I started formally working on this piece using the principles in Beck. Now I have a system in place that makes the goal attainable and maintainable.

Of course, I still have hiccups (and having them is part of Beck). I still sometimes turn to food when I am stressed—tortilla chips and chocolate chip cookies and pretzels were all harmed during this week’s car saga—but it is not for the same duration, I rarely continue to punish myself for a few suboptimal choices by really piling it on, and slips are far less likely to become a gateway to mulling over all my perceived flaws. I’ve finally accepted that my anxiety is very much proportional to my eating habits and that it can be greatly improved by putting in lots of vegetables or worsened by choosing foods low in nutrients.

Yes, it’s work, but it works. (For corroborating evidence on this perspective, I suggest this week's podcast #164 or Dimity's recent post on clean eating.)

Circling back to my stint in Ohio, I ended up shuffling my visit schedule, scurrying to Target after the breakfast with my dad and then getting in the tempo run while I was still in Ohio. My GU wasn’t needed (but the Action Wipe sure was because I cut the timing very close) and Reply All delivered entertaining and distracting content as usual.

I did not, however, have time to make it to the cemetery to see my mom, and that's okay. The sign next to me in the photo below from after that run reads "Peace to all who enter here." It's been on the front porch of my childhood home for as long as I can remember. It is how my mom (and dad) treated people and it is how she would want me to treat myself, including how I think, so I am wishing all of you a week of peaceful miles and thoughts.

Being 5'4 is a disadvantage when posing with signs.

PS: Although Beck has been very helpful, I’ve also been aided by several years of therapy. I started with my current practitioner when I was simultaneously becoming a new mom, going up for tenure, and processing the return of my mom’s cancer. I wanted to mention this as another tool because stigmas around mental health seem to prevent as much talking about this option as might be ideal. If you're having a tough time with anxiety, depression, relationships, parenting, or anything else, I hope you will seek help. I'm glad I did.

11 responses to “One #FindYourStrong Marathon, Two Voices: Weighty Matters

  1. What a very insightful and empowering post! So much so that I was feeling wobbly about going to the gym this morning and here I am lacing up my running shoes…my husband and I are trying to lose weight together and that really helps a lot too—-healthier cooking at home and more runs/gym outtings together (works well for the relationship too!).

    I totally vouch the therapy thing as well—I love it because its a whole hour about ME and whatever I need or want in those moments. Just remember….we all have choices in life and sometimes its the tough ones that are the healthier ones. 🙂 Best on your training!

  2. Wow, awesome post! I am going to check that book out of the library, pronto. Good luck with the marathon training. I really am looking forward to hearing more about how it goes.

  3. So interesting…..I started dieting at age 12….and pretty much have had a pattern of being on a constant diet since, until the last few years when I started running….. I actually wrote a little blog post a couple of months ago called “Cousin Binge Revisits” about how I finally realized that since I started running, I rarely feel the need to shut down my emotions by stuffing my face with food….. Running has seriously improved my relationship with food….without me even really having to think about it….. Looking forward to continuing to follow this journey.

  4. Marianne, thank you for posting this! I really appreciated you sharing the Beck principles. I’m going to check it out, because I could definitely use that for weight loss, running, and life in general, like you mentioned. Thank you also for sharing the last paragraph, too. It’s so often not talked about and it should be. Thank you again and I will be cheering you on virtually during training and your big race this fall! You got this!

  5. AMEN, on the mental health stigma. The more we talk about it and get our issues out in the open, the more normalized it will become so hopefully more people will seek help.

  6. Marianne, CONGRATS and such a beautiful post! Thanks for sharing your journey of the heart and the mind and the importance of support – in many forms! xo

  7. My very first 14 miler (which took me three tries to complete) I was for sure getting a concrete ice cream shake from Culvers at the end. FOR SURE. Except, those last few miles all I ever thought about was watermelon. Mmm watermelon. Not ice cream. Since that day, my running changed my eating, for the better. I realized the more I run, the more I crave healthy food for me. It really helped me turn my eating issues around. I don’t want junk when I’m training for something. Still have issues when injured, still have issues when depressed, but running helps all of that. I used to say I run to eat ice cream. Truth is, I run to make me healthy. Great post!

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