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Weighty Matters: Dry Martini Chimes In

Welcome to the week of Weighty Matters: a website- and podcast- series devoted to weight-related issues that have popped up among the #motherrunner crowd and seem to have resonated. Today, columnist Adrienne Martini chimes in. 

Running has been both the best way to manage my insecurities about my weight and the worst. Ninety-nine percent of the time, I don't fixate on what I look like. I’ve finally reached peace with the body I am increasingly honored to be in. The remaining 1 percent of the time is a work in progress.

Sure, my body has its quirks. My immune system finds spring pollen to be an affront it shall not bear quietly. My lower back and bladder, while not all they once were before the two babies, work just well enough to avoid a trip to an actual medical professional. Lately, my digestive system has been a bit irritable but, I mean, aren’t we all at times? All of my body’s current inconveniences have more to do with how it functions and less to do with how it appears.

That might be a function of age. I’ve reached one where friends and family and friends who are essentially family have bodies that are actively falling apart. There’ve been so many kinds of cancer, strokes, and heart attacks in my circle lately. My body functions is pretty awesome by comparison. For now, anyway.

My body can also carry me for miles and miles and miles, with nothing more complicated that a decent pair of shoes, a bra, some water, and a few calories. That is a miracle, right? And one that should be more than enough for any woman.

And yet.

woman running in new york city
Despite the fact that I was running a dang marathon, I still think my midsection looks enormous in this picture. Brains are jerks.

I was a super skinny kid until I hit my double-digit years. There was a lot going on in the early '80s, starting with my parent’s divorce (which, frankly, was the best choice they could have made in the long run) and puberty and changing schools and, you know, growing up. Food was my friend. My favorite after-school treat was to sit down with a box of sugary cereal, a bowl, and a carton of milk and eat until I started to feel OK enough to tackle my homework.

(There’s a lot to unpack here. Know that I have during many (many) therapy sessions. Simple carbs, as it turns out, are not a substitute for self-esteem or a cure for depression. I’m shocked, too.)

The summer between high school and college, I weighed 200-ish pounds. True story: I was once out to dinner where I was trying to impress a boy I had a crush on. I dropped some piece of cutlery, bent under the table to pick it up, and split the inside leg seam of my pants. That’s a hard one to maintain your allure through.

I lost the weight by starting college. Turns out that a change of scenery and some freedom was a good diet for me. My weight has bounced around since then but never reached that high school high point. Still, in my head, I’ve always been the 200-plus pound version of myself.

three women at a running expo
I love posing for pictures at expos; I hate looking at them afterward.

Here’s where I’m supposed to say, “until I started running.” That would be, at best, a half-truth. While running has proven that my body is strong and capable (and helped me keep my weight in a medically advisable range), spending time around runners can be a wee bit triggering. One look at Shalane or Deena or, hell, SBS and Dimity brings back all of those feeling of being too big to be worthy of success and love.

Our brains like to level-set, by which I mean, we tend to compare ourselves to those around us to figure out how we’re doing compared to the rest of the world. When I’m in the grocery store or an airport, I feel like I look like everyone else, if maybe a little sleepier. But when I’m at an Expo before a race, I feel like the Stay-Puft marshmallow man, which is exactly the burst of confidence you want right before a race.

I get fixated my upper arm being about the size of a speedy female runner’s thigh. That my feet stop moving before my boobs do. And that the sound of my shoes hitting the ground is a mighty one. Given how many years I spent believing that I took up too much space, letting these comparisons go is rough. This groove has been well worn in my brain.

Which isn’t to say that I’m not getting better about it. A more finely tuned sense of perspective is an advantage of age and experience. My body is just that: mine. It’s doing just great, all things considered, despite years and years of the media and my own mind telling me that it was worthless. Even if I have my moments where I let comparison (the thief of joy) raise his toxic head, I’ve made significant progress, one loud step at a time. Not toward perfection, because that’s just not a thing, but towards ease with all of me. 

20 responses to “Weighty Matters: Dry Martini Chimes In

  1. hi, im just start running lately, but at first why so hard? after running short distance, i already get tired, any information should i do? that will be help me a lot, thanks…

  2. The expo us the worst, but race day…..the middle to backnif the pack is filled with amazing people of all shapes and sizes being badass

  3. Thank you for sharing! The smile in your marathon photo might have inspired me to consider tackling one for myself. I have always thought you are beautiful and a super strong runner with GREAT hair……Your marathon legs look strong and mighty.

  4. I always love your writing and this one especially. I am 46 and have started to see the same among friends and family – illness, injury, general difficulty moving. I am so grateful for this body of mine that carries me through miles and miles, that can join in my daughter’s gymnastics class for being a parent week, that runs and walks and swims with my darling dog.

    I started running 20 years ago to get fit for my wedding. I had no idea it would lead to such acceptance and joy.

  5. This is exactly what I needed to read today. I’m facing my 50th birthday and my first marathon next month, trying to focus on confidence and mental preparation. My BMI is just beyond the “normal” range, and all those months of training resulted in not a single pound lost. Thank you for helping me remember to practice some gratitude for all that my body can do. And thank you for being honest about the “and yet” so I can remind myself not to beat myself up for those “and yet” feelings!

  6. I have recently realized my mother’s best loving efforts to mold me into a thin girl in my young years (because I’d be happier, right) were in fact body shaming. I’ve been running (literally and figuratively) from that for 50 years and like you so wonderfully write, we are all works of progress. I will never forget your generosity and compassion during that epic Falmouth Road Race when I was just so miserable. Unfailing optimism and giving me your dry gloves (which I promptly dropped in a puddle!) gave me energy to keep moving forward. That is the image I will always carry in my mind’s eye of you! We are our own worst critics and your candor and honesty and wonderful humor hopefully sets our sights on the power of our feet to keep us moving!! Love every article you post…not to mention those twitter and instagram postings!!

  7. Thank you. Just thank you….and why do I let the thief of joy have so much control in my life? It is past time to hand over that much control to such an undeserving entity.

  8. Thank you! It is not easy to be so open and honest about the horrible things we say to ourselves. It is so helpful to hear from you. (And I agree: your legs in that marathon shot are ENVIABLE!)

  9. It is the proverbial work in progress. And yes, looking around at skinny running friends, who, of course, can eat anything, can definitely bring you down. No kids, no therapy, but weight is always a struggle despite maintaining a healthy one for quite a while now.

    Some friends don’t get it, too. You’re healthy, they say. Be thankful. A few extra pounds is nothing. But they don’t get how easy it is for the few extra to turn into a lot of extra—and how unhealthy that is.

    The one thing I know for sure? It’s never really about what we eat; it’s about what we think. And it’s not easy to change what we think!

  10. Adrienne, the way you put your words together is moving and true! I’m printing this out and putting in on my desk blotter as a reminder. Thank you! Honesty is an amazing quality and I love yours!!!

  11. Thank you so much for this!! I also have the love/hate relationship with my arms, my legs well heck my entire body. But I look at it this way. I’m healthier and feel so much better at 46 then I did at 26 or 36. I didn’t start running until 3 years ago. I count my lucky stars, with my not so great genetic health, I’m able to get out there and go. I really appreciate your honesty. It’s also good to know we’re all in this together and need to get tell our brains to shove off!

  12. You are so comforting and make me (and so many others) feel like we have a support group 🙂 I love it when i’m at an expo and people ask who i’m there with. That’s always a real ego boost as though i couldn’t be running, clearly. And like you, i am working HARD to ignore my brain sayin “that race photo is the LEAST FLATTERING THING EVER” and focus on the awesome time I had with friends running a hard race and the fact that MY body (albeit not a tiny one) got me through. You make so many of us feel like we’re your friend and you understand. What a freaking gift.

  13. Oh my gosh! Comparison is the Thief of Joy!!! When I look at your NYC marathon picture, I see your smile and then your lovely, strong, long, and thin legs! (From the woman with “freakishly short legs”). I get it though. We see what our jerky brains have taught us to see. I see my huge grandfather’s nose whenever I see a picture of myself which no amount of weight loss can fix. But, I see him. So there’s that.
    At 54, with a menopausal changed body, I just don’t have to have to buy a new wardrobe. Otherwise, I’m fine with being “thick”. I don’t like the “f” word.
    You’re beautiful my friend!

  14. Spot on! Brains are jerks and years – decades – of negative self talk are a bitch to counteract. We are all in this struggle together – rather I think we’re all in it alone, at the same time and side by side. Reading your version of it helps me with today’s fight to stay kind to myself. Thanks.

  15. At almost 66 I still have “skinny arm complex”- I have been called “skinny” my whole life by those who aren’t and in not so nice a way…. brains can work both ways.

  16. I always feel that you are writing from my perspective. I started half marathon training in January — the weight has moved up and down since then, by about 5 pounds. It’s shifted also. It isn’t as concentrated in my stomach as it used to be and people have actually commented that I like look like I have lost weight. When I put on my running skirt and top, I feel good as I head out the door. Then, I take a picture. My brain immediately takes me to my stomach — never to see if I have a smile on my face or if I’m having a good time. How do I train my brain to look at that first and to avoid the stomach?! As I head to the half expo, I’m thinking about what to wear so that I look okay in pictures, not about if I’m having fun. I also want to figure out how to keep from passing this brain issue along to my daughter!! Thanks for helping me realize I’m not the only one with brain issues!!

  17. Adrienne I look forward to EVERYTHING you write. Your honesty and wit is entertaining, refreshing, honest, and uplifting. Just like everyone else I find I’m always thinking about/struggling with my weight. Last year I had an arterial bleed that almost took me from this world and the after effect had me depressed and apathetic about exercise or what I ate. Hence I looked and felt terrible (to myself). Now I’m back on the horse and of course like everyone else wondering why I havent lost 50 pounds in one week since I’ve been really working at it again and I’m realizing when were older it just takes time, patience, and persistence. I’m not giving up and I’m also pitiching the scale. For me I’m going to go by how I feel rether than what some dumb machine tells me. I’m still here and able to take care of my great kids, fantastic husband, crazy dog and grumpy cat. I hope you know that to me, and probably everyone else who reads your articles, you are Awesome, amazing, and beautiful, inside and out!

  18. So much YES Adrienne! I was trying to explain some of these very things to my spouse the other day. At 58 years old I’m happy to be healthy, albeit with a slew of small annoyances that seem to grow by the year. And I’m happy to be physically able to get out there and run and do races and show up at expos. And just like I’ve finally (I think) let go of the notion that I’m not as good a runner as others because I’m hella slow, I am trying to let go of the notion of being fat, overweight, huge, flabby…and all the other words my brain has used to describe me over the last several decades. And while yes, my weight teeters on the edge of normal/overweight, generally skewing slightly right, I am in general happy, healthy, and ready to live the rest of my life. Why then is it so hard? Why do I keep wishing to be a size that I thought was “fat” in my 20’s? You’re right…brains ARE jerks. Thanks for the honesty. Good to know I’m not alone.

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