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Emotional Weight Loss Journey

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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A Marathon of Half Marathons

image1I have my clients keep “Celebrations and Confessions” journals. This is a journal where they write down some of the things that they feel that they need to confess as they go through their weight loss journeys. It’s a safe place that they can get it out, let it go and move on without beating themselves up to much over it and in the process of doing so, cause themselves to fall into the vicious cycle of feeding feelings and emotional eating.  It is also a place where they write down the things that they are proud of and the things that they want to celebrate in their journeys. 

Sometimes the only way someone else knows we want them to acknowledge and celebrate an accomplishment with us is if we make the effort to make them aware of what the accomplishment is.

Today I have a really BIG accomplishment I would like to share with you all and ask you all to celebrate with me.

IMG_5869Three weeks ago I ran the Star Wars The Dark Side half marathon with my partner-in-crime Jeff Newell. It was Jeff’s first timed and chipped half marathon and that was a really big accomplishment for him and that is what the majority of my focus was on. 

But it was a really special accomplishment for me as well. It was my 26th half marathon.

26 half marathons. A full marathon is 26.2 miles. I know this real well because I just ran my first full marathon last January when I took on the Dopey Challenge and managed not to die after 4 days of getting up early and running far too many miles each day. So 26 half marathons is quite literally a marathon of half marathons. That is quite a feat.

Pandora420lbIf you had told 420 pound me who could hardly stand in the kitchen and cook a meal without experiencing foot and back pain that just 6 years in the future I would be celebrating an accomplishment like this I would have wondered what sort of drugs you had been taking and why you weren’t sharing it, because obviously that was some pretty good stuff.

I look back at photos of that girl and I scarcely recognize her or the lifestyle that I was living back then. 

I think back to that moment that my Dad came to me and told me that he would love me no matter what, but that I was digging a grave with a fork and a spoon and that he was worried I wouldn’t live a happy and healthy life.

I started running as a coping mechanism of dealing with the loss and grief that I experienced when my Dad passed away. Running has been my way of staying emotionally connected to him even though he can’t be here with me anymore. When I run I talk to him, I share what is going on in my life with him and I always know that he is listening to me.

26 is just a number. But it is a number that has held a lot of symbolism for me in my life and in my weight loss journey. My father was born in 1926. It has always been one of my favorite years. When I had lost 260 lb. I got 26 stars tattooed on my back – one for every 10 lb. I had lost. The number 26 has great significance to me. 

13173693_10206671781488519_7014395854559789663_nI looked up my split times for this latest half marathon the other night and my fastest mile was mile 11 – my dreaded mile. Mile 11-12 is usually the one I struggle on the most. But in this last event I ran that mile in 10:01— Who ever would have thought this girl would be running a 10 minute mile. That astounds me.  I remember a day only 6 years ago that I couldn’t even walk a 30 minute mile.

I am amazed each day at the difference in my life the moment I started living it outside the confines of obesity. For the first time in my life I am experiencing life, love and happiness without having to try to change myself or who I am to feel like I earned it. I am just being me and enjoying every moment.  

Since Star Wars I have run the Myrtle Beach Diva and the Tinker Bell Half Marathon and now have 28 Half Marathons on the books and I am currently trying to decide what my next goal is going to be,

But for today, I am Nashville bound to speak and teach an exercise session at this years the WLSFA ( Weight Loss Surgery Foundation of America ) Annual Meet and Greet. — Now if only I can find the time to go to the Johnny Cash Museum while I am there.

Until next time, remember that celebrating your wins against obesity and sharing your story and giving yourself credit for your  successes can be very important part of your weight loss journey.

See you all in Nashville. Yeehaw!

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Pandora Williams author of Desperately Seeking Slender is a  Cooper Approved Wellness Coach Trained in Weight Management Strategies and Motivational Speaker studying to become 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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