By Julie Creffield
Three years ago I went to my local GP after pulling something in my back while picking my daughter up awkwardly at playgroup. He asked me: “Tell me about your weight.” I knew exactly where this was going. At over 16 stone (224 lbs), whenever I went to the doctor the problem always came down to my weight being an issue.
He prescribed me pain killers and complete rest, which was going to be a problem with an 8 month old crawling around. Oh, and the marathon I was due to do in just 3 weeks. When I told him about my plans, he laughed and shook his head. “The problem is you are just too unfit to run this marathon,” he said. “What you mean is I am too fat?” I asked to clarify.
“Yes, you are too fat to run.”
You see, despite my size-18 frame, I am a runner. In fact, for the last ten years I have run everything from 5K fun runs to full marathons. When he laughed at me, he could see only that I was a large-framed woman. My appearance led him to assume that I was completely inactive.
I run because I love to run. I love the feeling of running; I love the community of runners where I have made many friends; I will even admit that I love running to keep control of my weight. All of this helps me to lead a healthier and happier life.
As an overweight woman, I have understandable concerns about my weight. Let’s face it; whether you’re a size 2 or a size 22, most woman worry about their weight these days. The media’s obsession with thin and fat is showcased everywhere. After years of yo-yo dieting and obsessing over my weight, I finally reached the point where I refuse to have my sense of worth based on my physical appearance. I am sick of doctors telling overweight patients to try swimming or walking for weight loss, especially when they are capable of so much more. When respected members of the medical profession make inaccurate assumptions about the limitations of an overweight patient, what hope do we have?
In the end, I did run that marathon.
What my doctor said stuck with me and was just what I needed to turn my running blog into a global movement. A few months after that consultation, my company, Too Fat to Run, was born. We provide support to other plus-sized women interested in the sport through online coaching programs, a virtual running club, plus size running kit and retreats.
Activity of any type makes you feel great. When you feel great, you end up eating better and sometimes even less; that’s when you really begin to lose weight, tone up and feel great (which, in turn, leads you to do more physical activity). When you feel the opposite of this, you’re lethargic and lazy. You end up eating for comfort, getting depressed and feeling hopeless. I know this because I have been there. As an overweight person, you often feel like the journey ahead is too long, too difficult and too embarrassing. Doctors laughing at you certainly doesn’t help.
I meet thousands of women each year that have changed and extended their lives through running. This includes women who couldn’t walk to the top of their roads but can now run half marathons.
That doctor wrote me off as Too Fat to Run, so now I run in a hoodie with those words as my slogan. You will notice that there is a big fat question mark at the end of those words. This is to encourage all of us, big and small, to challenge our perceptions of what we believe those around us are capable of.
Too often we are told (by others or by ourselves) that we are too something to achieve our goals: too old, too female, too ethnic, too working class, or too fat. This idea that we are too something to achieve the things we want in life is wrong. I have learned over the last four years that the only thing holding me back in life is my own mindset. Today, I couldn’t care less what anyone else thinks of me.
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