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The Truth About Why I Stopped Running

I’m an Obesity Rebel.

That means I don’t let this disease kick my ass any more. I make sure that I am always fighting back and that it never gets to have the hold on me it once did.

But the methods I use to fight back have changed a little over the nearly 8 years since I started this journey.

One of the keys to my success in weight loss was that I traded my love of food for a love of running. I started running in July of 2011 to deal with grief of losing my father.

Between July of 2011 and May of 2017, I ran a total of 41 half marathons, one full marathon and an average day of exercise for me included training runs that ranged from 5-10 miles a day. I ran a lot. In my mind I was the genuine Forest Gump of the weight loss community.

Running made me feel better.

It helped me deal with my emotions, whatever they were. It got me through the grief of losing my Dad, the grief of my failed marriage, and the grief of a couple failed attempts at relationships along the way.

Whether we realize it or not, when relationships end — whether because someone passed away, someone left, or because you walked away — it’s still a loss that affects our hearts and our minds, and causes a form of grief that we must deal with. I used running, and the emotional high it gave me, to deal with that grief.

Instead of turning to food to cope with my emotions, I ran. As a recovering food addict and self-admitted emotional eater, using my emotions to fuel my fitness became the pillar of my weight loss success.

Running also helped me build up my self-confidence and self-efficacy. Every time I completed a training run for a big event, I felt accomplished. Each time I completed a half-marathon, and hung another participation or finishers medal on the wall, I felt the pride in that accomplishment. The more I did this, the more certain I was in my ability to keep the weight off.

Keeping the weight off, being proud of myself and being at least mostly happy with my new body led to me develop more self-confidence and inner strength. I no longer had all those feelings of unworthiness that I had when obesity was kicking my butt.

I shared my journey with others through my blog, motivational speaking engagements and a newfound career as a Weight Loss Coach and Personal Trainer. And when I saw how my actions could inspire and affect others, I was even more motivated to run. Running was special to me. The love I found for running changed my life in so many positive ways.

And then, everything changed.

If you had asked me 11 months ago, when I completed my last half marathon, why I was taking a break from running, I would have told you that it was because I was suffering from overuse injuries that needed to heal. I would have told you that I had developed achilles tendonitis in both heels and that the pain made running not worth it to me anymore. I would have told you that I was worried I might injure myself in a way that would make it impossible to continue running.

While those all would have been good reasons, none of them were true. I had learned how to deal with my injuries. I was seeing a foot doctor that was helping me work through it. KT Tape had become one of my best friends and although my doctor did want me to slow down — meaning he didn’t want me running a half marathon every other weekend — he never told me I had to stop completely. He understood how important running was to me and my emotional well-being.

So, what was the truth then? The truth was, I had lost desire to run because it seemed to be the point of contention in an emotionally battering, circular argument that was going on in my relationship at the time. We were fighting in a way that was volatile and destructive and almost every time it happened it traced back to one of two things: my running or my career.

The fights were never about running in and of itself. It was about the time I spent doing it instead of paying attention to him and nurturing the relationship the way he wanted me to. It was about the money I spent doing it, even though my part of the bills were always paid. It was about the fact that I was going places he wanted to go, without him. It was about the fact that I could afford to go, and he couldn’t. It was about him not being invited, even though he couldn’t afford to go, on trips that were sponsored or that were all-girl weekend events with my friends.

It really fell apart when I got the opportunity to run in Paris

What I wanted was the sort of relationship where when I called and said, “I just got a sponsorship to go to Paris and run the inaugural Disneyland Paris half marathon,” the reaction was excitement, supportiveness, happiness for a great opportunity for me.

But that wasn’t how the story went.

That story will have to be a whole different blog. It’s too long to make you suffer through today.

What is important is that he REALLY didn’t want me to go to Paris. His big reason at the time, was that I was ruining his plans for a grandiose proposal. Once upon a time in one of those conversations you have in the pre-commitment stages of a relationship, I had confided in him that my ideal  proposal would be at the finish line of some big event. We’d discussed the Paris half-marathon when they first announced it. How much I would like to run it, how awesome it would be to go to Paris together. How perfect a finish-line like that would be for a proposal, in the years to come.

I had no idea when we had those conversations that I would get the opportunity to run that first inaugural Disneyland Paris event. I had no idea one of my friends would offer to let me stay in a hotel room she already had booked to make the trip more affordable for me. I certainly had no idea that BariLife, a WLS-centric company that makes vitamins, protein powders, protein bars and protein-based snacks would offer to sponsor my run. 

In no world did I think that my opportunity to go to Paris (for little, to no, out-of-pocket cost) would cause the man I loved, the one I was about to move in with and was seriously considering spending the rest of my life with, to throw a fit.

Like I said, he really didn’t want me to go. Or more accurately, he really didn’t want me to go without him. He moved in with me just a couple of weeks after I found out about the sponsorship. I refused to turn it down and pass up such an amazing opportunity, for no reason other than the fact that he wasn’t included in the travel plans.

I paid for that decision dearly, I couldn’t begin to count the number of fights we had about my decision to go to Paris. We fought about my running plans constantly between the time he moved in at the end of May and the time I left for Paris in September.

The fights were ugly, volatile, and made me feel bad about myself.

We were in this circular pattern and it was bringing out a very ugly side of me. I don’t do constant conflict well. I grew up in a household that was very hostile and volatile when it came to arguments. My mother and I fought a lot. This pattern of constant fighting and constant conflict, along with the financial strains that ensued after he was injured in a biking accident, just proved to be a huge source of never-ending stress.  

The more we fought, the more the ugly, defensive side of me came out. I’m good at fighting back with words. I did it for most of my childhood. It’s not something I’m proud of, but in a state of constant conflict I have a hard time controlling it.

He’d bring up how upset he was that I was going to Paris without him. I’d bring up that he couldn’t afford to go even if he wanted to, and that I couldn’t invite him because I was staying with someone else and a sponsor was paying for my trip. He’d make me feel bad by telling me how he wasn’t lucky enough to have friends that would let him stay with them for free, so he could do the things he wanted.

He’d make me feel guilty for not asking my sponsor to send him as well. He questioned why I went to them asking for a sponsorship for just myself when I could have asked for a sponsorship for us both. I’d explain that I didn’t think I could get a sponsorship that big. In short, he faulted me for not making my story more about him, so that he could go on this trip.

As a result, I started to lose my self-confidence. I started to doubt myself.

Was I just lucky like he kept telling me I was? Or had I worked hard to get to where I was, to build the sort of relationships and reputation that allowed for me to get such big opportunities?

The more we fought, the worse things got. That ugly side of me kept coming out — a side of me I didn’t like. I began to see signs of that little girl in side me who didn’t know how to disengage from an argument. The one who would just keep fighting and fighting. And his persistence at trying to strong-arm me into doing things his way had me in a constant state of emotional turmoil.

In this emotional state, I started turning to unhealthy habits as a way of coping. I relapsed into smoking several times. I started drinking too much. Then those things started becoming a source of contention. The more he fought with me, the more I would turn to the things he fought with me about.

To try to persuade me to do things his way, he would point out how my behaviors could ruin my career. He’d ask me what people would think if he told them about all the unhealthy things I turned to instead of food. He’d tell me I was a hypocrite, a liar, that I didn’t practice what I preached about living a healthy lifestyle.

I’d counter with the fact that I never said I was perfect. That I didn’t always make good choices to deal with my emotions. That what I told people is that I could help them lose weight, find the fun in fitness, learn not to use food to deal with their feelings — not how to live a perfect existence, free from struggles.  

I tried to take solace in the fact that I was still doing all those things. But my emotional stamina was dwindling, I was starting to believe all the things he said. I couldn’t take the constant arguing anymore, I knew I was getting close to the end of my rope when it came to my mental health.

To stop the fighting, I started making sacrifices.

Since the fights often centered on the things I consider foundational to the person I have become since my weight loss — my career, the time devotion to my blog, running — these were hard sacrifices for me to make.

I stopped blogging. I didn’t really have anything going on I was comfortable talking about or sharing anyways. I was embarrassed about how things in my life were going. I was ashamed of some of the things I was doing and afraid to talk about them. After all, he’d convinced me that talking about my struggles would ruin my career and reputation.

I couldn’t stop working, I couldn’t work any less than I was, I was barely making it financially as it was. So, I started running less. At first, I gave up all the Disney runs that seemed to be the major focus of his jealousy. I made a promise that after Paris and Princess and TinkerBell, which I already had plans for, I would try not  to do anymore Disney runs or trips without him.

That didn’t work either. Instead,  we’d argue about my wanting to go on a weekend trip with my friends to Myrtle Beach, Washington DC or Atlanta. So I stopped trying to travel for runs at all. I committed to only participating in local races.

When that didn’t end the fighting, I committed to only doing virtual runs, running around town with one of my best friends instead. But the fighting still didn’t stop. We just fought about other things. And soon the fighting was so bad that trying to add running back into the mix just caused me more anxiety.

So, finally, I just stopped running.

I don’t know if I should say that I lost my love of running. I just think running got a lot of negativity attached to it. Because of the problems it seemed to be causing, it didn’t provide me that release from my emotions because any time I was doing it I knew it was going to cause me more problems.

This all left me feeling like running had been stolen from me. It had been taken away and turned into the villain of my relationship. I gave away a piece of my heart when I decided to love someone, and he wasn’t happy with just a piece of it, he wanted the entire thing. I wasn’t allowed to love running as much as I loved him.

He had successfully accomplished that goal, whether he ever intended to or not. Running wasn’t helping me deal with my problems anymore, it was making them worse.

Looking back now, I realize that what I should have done was lace up my running shoes and run as fast and as far as possible from the relationship as I could. I thought that if I stopped running, we might stop fighting, and I might have that amazing love story I had been dreaming of since I was a little girl.

But I think that love story ended the moment I decided to go to Paris without him. I just didn’t accept it, and I wasn’t strong enough to walk away then. My heart was involved. Instead, I hung on for a year and by the time it was over I had two big holes in my heart: the one I left on the ground somewhere in Paris when I decided to allow him to steal the joy of running from me,  and then one that got left in my heart the following April when the relationship finally came to an end.

If I had it to do all over again, I’d go back to the moment he told me he didn’t want me to go to Paris, and I’d end it all right then. I’d lace up my running shoes, like I did the night my father was dying, and I’d run the hell out of that Paris half marathon, using running as my trusted method of dealing with grief. Except that time, it would have been the grief of a relationship that didn’t work out.

But I don’t have a time machine, a magic wand or a re-do. Instead, I must find a way to get past the fear and anxiety that swells up inside me when I think about running. I need to get past all the other reasons I convinced myself and others that I shouldn’t run. Because the truth is, I want to run again. I’m just scared it won’t ever be the same. And fear, my friends, can be one of the biggest obstacles you’ll ever face in your fitness journeys.

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Pandora Williams author of Desperately Seeking Slender is an ISSA Certified Personal Trainer and Cooper Institute Approved Wellness Coach Trained in Weight Management Strategies. Her training and coaching services are offered exclusively through GoGirl Fitness Studio.

Did you miss the blogs about that amazing Inaugural Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Adventure? Just want to reminisce with me about the most amazing run I ever did? Check out these past articles on Desperately Seeking Slender.

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Happy Miscounted 38th Half Marathon To Me!

One of the things that I think is most important in my weight loss journey is my self-integrity. That means something different for everyone. But one of the biggest things I have learned along the way is that if I am not keeping the promises I make to myself in order to reach my goals, it becomes easier and easier to do just that: not keep my promises.

If I tell myself that I’ll be in the gym doing cardio 5x this week and I only get in there 4x, and then next week I do the same thing, for whatever reason – life got in the way, something came up, there were other more pressing things I had to do – it makes it easier and easier to not keep that promise to myself and to justify only getting 4 days in each week instead of 5.

I’m not saying that 4 days isn’t better than none, or even better than 3, but if it’s not those 5 days I promised myself and I keep doing it over and over, before I know it, it might be 3 days instead of 4 or 2 days instead of three.

I made a mistake. I miscounted.

Somewhere in the midst of things this last year, some of my numbers in accounting for the number of half marathons that I have run got off. After reviewing the numbers  repeatedly, I know they were correct leading up to my Marathon of Half Marathons and leading into Jeff moving here last June, but somewhere after that, somehow I counted a half marathon I didn’t actually run.

There is no telling why I made the mistake. But here is what I do know: each time I complete a half marathon, I put it on the books as done. Each one of them is leading to goals I have. For example right now my goal is to be at 39 half marathons by the time I leave for the Tinker Bell half marathon next month so that event ends up being my 40th.

You might ask why I set that goal?

It makes sense really, at least to my brain. I turned 40 this year. The Tinker Bell Half Marathon at Disneyland is my favorite half marathon each year. It is really the half marathon that started this obsession with me. I know going into it this year that for financial reasons, the likelihood of me running it again next year is slim, and so this year, what will be likely be my 4th and final year of running it, needs to be special to me.

That and I am a numbers girl. I get a little obsessed on them. So doing a special half marathon for the 4th time the year that I turned 40 and it being my 40th half marathon all has a significance to me that means something to me. That’s the most important thing about a goal you set, that it is important enough to you that you are intrinsically motivated to do it.

To some people, this might sound crazy. Trust me I know. Some people have told me, “Who cares that I miscounted? Who cares that I have run 37 instead of 38 half marathons?” The significance in that number really isn’t important to anyone but me. Right? I’m running with an injury that is slowing me down on a regular basis, making these events harder and harder for me and making it so that it takes me longer and longer to recover from running that sort of distance. I really should be taking a break and letting that achilles tendonitis heal and pushing it to get another half marathon on the books to make up for my miscounting error before I leave next month is crazy, unnecessary and stupid. Right?

Maybe I am crazy.

Maybe that is all correct. Here is the most important thing in all that outside input that I didn’t really welcome or ask for: the significance in that number really isn’t important to anyone but me. And ME is the person that is the most significant when it comes to keeping the promises I make to myself, reaching my goals and feeling good about them when I get there.

So with all that said, yesterday, I set out to make up for that missing half marathon. I did it to set my numbers straight, find that mathematical accountability that my brain has learned to find comfort in, and to get my goals back in line for what I want to achieve next month.

Currently I’m a little out of shape when it comes to running. My ankles are screaming at me, and I took a few weeks off of running after my last running event in February to try to let them heal. In fact, as hard as it was for me to do, I took three weeks off of exercise in general to give my body a true break. When you take that kind of time off you start losing your fitness and endurance levels, as a result I’m a little slower than I would like to be now.

When I sat out to run that 13.1 miles yesterday I wasn’t even sure I could do it. There was a little negative voice in the back of my head that kept telling me maybe I wasn’t ready, maybe I was going to hurt too bad the next day if I tried to do it. Maybe I would only get to mile 11 or 12 and then hit a wall and fail. After all, on my last long run I jumped from 4 miles to 9 miles and I struggled to make it.

I had to combat those negative voices in my head.

But part of me also knew that those negative voices I was hearing and that self-doubt that I was experiencing was coming from the fact that other people were telling me these things, not because I felt them myself. I started to combat those negative voices with positive reinforcements of my goal. I know I can do this if I am willing to slow down and not push too hard. I know I can do this if I take my time and just enjoy it, rather than worrying about how fast I go or how long it takes me to get it done.

I needed to prove myself, and not just because somewhere deep inside me I needed to correct those numbers and get them back where I wanted them to be to meet my goals, but because I had to prove to myself over the negative voices so loudly playing in my mind that I could indeed do it.

And so I did. I walked out the door with the intention of spending some time with my Dad. Ignoring my speed or my mile per minute time and instead going back to what running was for me before all of that started being important: I set out to have fun. I set out to enjoy the music, enjoy the scenery, spend some time with my father, run off my emotions and maybe just maybe in the process find me again. Because lately I’ve felt that somewhere along the way in the last year of life in general, I lost a little bit of the focus on me and my goals while being more wrapped up in helping everyone else meet theirs.

I needed a little me time.

It’s been awhile since I took that in the form of running, just like I learned to do in the beginning of my journey, to deal with my emotions and work things out in my mind.

First I told myself I would run 10 miles, just increasing my long run by a mile from last time. Then I played with numbers in my head while I ran and convinced myself that I’d run 6.2 miles with my Dad and 6.2 miles with myself, when you turn those numbers around that’s two sets of 26, and that number has significance in my world, 1926 was the year my father was born.

I told myself I only had to make it to 12.4 and from there if I wanted to I would stop. But in my heart I knew that if I could make it to 12.4 I could make it to 13.1. I just needed to look at it as small goals in my mind to make it less tedious and intimidating while I was out there.

I ran through my neighborhood. I ran through the local cemetery and I watched for headstones from people who were born the same year my father was, and I took time to stop and pause my watch and say hello to them. I spent some time listening to my father’s music, having conversations with him about everything going on in my life right now and listening for some answers.

I went slow. I took it easy. When my Fitbit died and I took my phone out and started using that to track my distance to make sure I got it all in. And over three hours later, I had my true half marathon number 38 on the books. Guess what else I had? My self integrity. The fact that I had fixed my mistake and that my claim to 38 half marathons, though miscalculated as to time and place was accurate in numbers and accomplishments.

I felt better. I felt a lot better. The time alone running with my thoughts, helped me find clarity and direction and helped me answer some of the questions that were weighing so heavily on my mind.

And so I completed my Me-A-Thon.

Yup, I’m calling this half marathon #38 redux, my official 2017 Half ME-a-thon. Because truthfully it was something I needed to do for myself. Something I needed deep inside me for bunch of reasons nobody but me might understand.

At the end of the day, guess what, it’s okay if nobody but me understands it. Because my weight loss journey, my fitness journey, my emotional journey is about me first and foremost. While that might seem greedy and that might seem selfish, the truth is, that if when I first decided to walk this journey I decided that was the only way I was going to be successful at it. If I made sure that I was doing it for the right reasons, that I was doing it for myself.

Yesterday I needed to remind myself that it was about me. That it was about my goals and my journey and about what I needed deep inside me to feel right with the world and feel like I had kept my fitness promises to myself. I needed to get myself back on track with myself, and not to anyone else’s time, speed or standards but to my own.

Maybe that wasn’t important to anyone but me. Maybe it was unnecessary and stupid. Maybe I was slow and had an awful finishing time – but I enjoyed every moment of it. When it was over I felt empowered by something intrinsically that I hadn’t felt empowered by in a very long time. Just doing it for myself. Focusing on myself. Being with myself.

And that is exactly want I needed.

So happy miscounted 38th half marathon to me. I ran a Half Me-A-Thon yesterday and while my ankles are a little sore today and my body is a little wounded, my self integrity, self-confidence and self efficacy in my goals is back on track and my pride in myself is unwounded and that is neither silly, unnecessary or stupid.

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Pandora Williams author of Desperately Seeking Slender is a  Cooper Approved Wellness Coach Trained in Weight Management Strategies and a Certified Personal Trainer.
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Author: Pandora Williams

Author of Desperately Seeking Slender

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BariLife has decided to send me back to Paris to represent the WLS Community as I attempt to find my love of running again.
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