There’s a great Office episode where Michael is confronted with the reality that you can’t just say whatever you want in the workplace and not get, I don’t know, sued for it. I love watching the early episodes and the extra cringe that’s induced from the off-color sexual, misogynistic and downright racist jokes that would just not fly in 2019.
Anyhoodles, once Michael realizes this he makes an announcement that he can’t be friends with anyone in the office anymore and to consider it his retirement from comedy.
This clip has stayed with me for a lot of reasons. Mostly because of how ridiculous it is it announce your retirement from something you weren’t really even capable of retiring from.
Like what I’m about to tell you.
You can consider this post my retirement from running.
I came to this conclusion pretty naturally, actually. This past summer I had a lot of drama. I was hospitalized twice for severe migraines and seizures. MB and I went through a lot of personal stuff. This bled into the fall — when I had to defer the New York Marathon — and then winter — when Kanga died and Mark was out for training and I was desperately trying to figure out the direction of my life.
And during that time, running was absent. The times that I was out on the pavement were rough. I promised myself that training for Princess and signing up for the Pittsburgh Marathon would reignite that spark. But the spark never caught.
And I tried. I tried so hard. I ran every day for a few weeks. I ran every other day even more often. I bought new leggings, new crops, new shoes, new hats all in an effort to bribe the spark or the love to return.
It never came back. And I panicked a little. Running is who I AM. I am a RUNNER. I RUN. LIKE MARATHONS.
I stopped training for Princess about a month out. I ran a 10 miler that I hated every step of as my last long run and hoped for the best. And the race was the best I could have hoped for. I had fun with my friends, I got to be in my happiest place, I SLEPT. But man I hated the race. The race I had been privileged enough to run at least 4 times. I stopped at mile 8. Sat down. Thought it over.
I decided to walk the last 5 miles. During that time as I got nearer and nearer to the back of the pack, I really turned over in my brain: why do you run?
For my health. But none of your doctors have pointed to running as THE THING that keeps you healthy.
For my sanity. But you have great therapists now. People ACTUALLY trained to deal with your mental health.
For my friendships. But they love you even when you’re not running together.
For my health!!! No this is bullshit. You’ve been healthy, more or less, since you stopped running.
FOR MY HEALTH!!!! Bitch stop it. Call it by its name. Say it out loud.
To try desperately to be skinny. There it is.
To always try to be smaller. Yes ma’am! And why?
To be worthy. A worthy body is a small, thin body. What else do you tell yourself?
That thin is healthy. Small is healthy. Do you hear it another way now?
Small is worthy. You are not worthy unless you are smaller. Or always striving for smaller. Health is not the reason. Small is the reason.
Look, I’ve “struggled” with my weight and my body image my whole life. Remember how proud I was when I lost like 30lbs? I read this post now and it makes me feel so sad. And guilty. I hate that I put this out in the world. Because you know what? I was perfectly healthy in all those pictures. Bodily I was fine: 200lbs, 170 lbs (not the 140lbs when I was eating 500 kcals a day and running 6 miles to burn it all off). But mentally. I was sick. I was near dying. Because I was constantly telling myself I was not worthy. I could not be worthy until I looked a certain way, weighed a certain amount.
Sure I made my goal weight at weight watchers. And 4 years later, I’ve gained (probably) most of it back. You know why? Because I was still disordered eating. For me, counting the points the calories of the butter down to the miliounce is disordered for me. It has NEVER been about nutrition. It’s been about being as small as possible so that I am worthy of love and praise and a place in the world as a functioning woman. I did it because I have internalized the message that in order to be successful I cannot be fat.
It was a lot to process in 5 miles of a walk.
During that 5 mile stroll, I looked around at the other participants, all shapes and sizes. I heard the negative reel in my head. Judging myself against other people — oh you’re way bigger than her. But you’re smaller than him.
What does that matter, Lauren? WHAT? Nothing; it means nothing. I want it to stop. I don’t want to want be on the worth-granting committee of my own head anymore. I want to see people and effort and ingenuity and kindness. Because that’s what I want people to see when they see me.
I took all this back to my (amazing) therapist and we started to unpack it. We talked about the way I see myself (a horrible growing blob), the way I think other people see me (lazy, undisciplined, gluttonous, out of control, unhealthy, unworthy, unlovable, untrustworthy). Which is like, kind of crazy.
My therapist told me to try to regulate my thoughts. Let them come, but put them in perspective, reframe them. React kindly to my own self degradation, try to actually be gentle with myself. So I gave it a go when I went to Mexico for a long weekend.
It was all bikinis and shorts and tank tops. My clothes fit me, but not nearly as well as the summer before. And I was surrounded by other people who were also in bikinis and shorts and tank tops. Usually, I would spend a lot of time covering up, thinking that that everyone was staring at me, thinking I was blob. Thinking I shouldn’t be there in my swimsuit.
But you know what? No one said a word to me about my big thighs and hips and cellulite. Not one person said — didn’t those shorts fit you better last year? No one in the whole country asked me how much I weighed. My friend that I traveled with didn’t seem grossed out by my body. And if she was, she mercifully didn’t make a big scene about it.
It was at that moment that I knew I would be OK. I started looking into the Healthy At Every Size Movement which is basically helping people recognize markers for health that are not solely focused on weight and therefor outward appearance. I read Shrill, Hungry and I’m trying to get through Rethinking Thin and Tales from the Fat-o-sphere.
But most importantly, I’m living my damn life. I am going to barre like 7 days a week (I was, right now my should is injured but I’ll be back). I’ve taken up spinning. And when I’m there I focus on the joy of the movement. I don’t think about the food I ate that landed me in work out class, or how many calories I’m burning off.
And most importantly, I’m trying very earnestly to honor my body right here and right now. I’m honest with myself about the size of clothes that fit my body right now. I don’t beat myself up over those or any other arbitrary numbers that might come up.
And I’m trying to really fuel my body. Like honest to goodness. I’ve started seeing a Registered Dietician who focuses on body positivity. I am trying not to see food as an enemy or a force. Just food. And like some vegetable occasionally.
And I’m going to be real. It’s really hard. Some days I legit just feel fat and ugly. But most days, I realize when I’m not obsessing about food and exercise, I have a lot of bandwidth for other things like reading, and writing and friends.
I’m not saying I’ll never run again but the time for racing long distances in this phase of my life is over. And I’m OK with that. I’m so much more than a runner. I’m a lot of thing. But one thing I’m not is ashamed of who I am or what I look like.