This Was Not an Easy Post to Write

I started running two years ago, during the spring of my senior year in high school. Since by that point I’d already gotten into college and was basically done with high school, I had a lot of free time on my hands. I was feeling frustrated about a lot of things, particularly the way I looked, and I thought that running would be exactly what I needed. It would be an opportunity to clear my head, to get stronger physically, and hopefully help me drop some of the weight I gained from stress-eating my way through college applications. In late April, I signed myself up for a 5K that was scheduled for the first weekend of June, and I told myself I would need to be able to cross that finish line standing by race day.

You could say I crossed that finish line and just kept right on running. Almost two years after I registered for that race, running has become more a part of me than I could possibly have imagined. It’s brought me joy and a sense of accomplishment. I love it. When I signed up for that first 5K, I saw running as a way of achieving other goals, but now running is a goal in and of itself. I don’t run to lose weight or because I want bigger calf muscles. I run for the sheer joy of it, because I can’t imagine waking up in the morning and NOT running.

But the truth of the matter is, I still haven’t lost that weight I originally wanted to get rid of. In fact, I’ve put on weight since I’ve started running. A substantial amount of it. This is not necessarily a bad thing — I don’t think that women need to be super skinny or that there’s certain weight that a person ought to be — but right now I’m not happy with the way I look. My clothes don’t fit me right and I just don’t feel good. And I want to do something about it.

Clearly exercise is not the problem here, since I run 25 to 35 miles a week and cross train on top of that. So I’ve decided to start being more aware of the food I eat. This is really hard at college, when unhealthy foods abound and my dining options are basically limited to the gross food that’s available in the cafeteria (Not a whole lot of fresh fruit and healthy whole grains, that’s for sure.) But I think that if I can plan out what I’m going to eat at the beginning of the day, and STICK to that plan, I can avoid temptation. I already do eat pretty healthily — lots of salads, yogurt and fruit for breakfast, more than 8 cups of water a day and never any soda, etc. — but I have a serious sweet tooth and can’t say no to cookies, even though the desserts in the dining hall aren’t even very good. So in addition to planning my meals for the day, I’m going to stop eating dessert of any kind from the dining hall since they’re just not worth it (but I’ll keep dark chocolate in my room to satisfy my sweet tooth!) and also give up fancy coffee drinks. I’m also going to eat fresh fruit throughout the day and not cover it in peanut butter, which is my current habit.

I’m also going to seriously commit to weight lifting and core-strengthening, something I’ve always tried to do but usually give up on. I’m going to do 10 minutes of abs work EVERY MORNING when I wake up and lift weights at the gym once a week. I know that this will make me a better runner as well as helping me fit back into my jeans, so that’s motivation as well.

Talking about weight and body image is always tricky, especially because the media portrayal of how women ought to look is so damaging psychologically. (That’s a link to the website of the movie MissRepresentation, by the way. If you haven’t seen it, you should.) A lot of the time it’s hard to distinguish what you actually want from what it feels like society expects from you. I want to be clear that I don’t hate my body  — my body has done amazing things, like running a marathon — and I am so so grateful for it. I just think that right now, I don’t look or feel my best, and I want to work on changing that in a way that’s healthy and safe.

Did your body image affect your decision to start running? Have you ever tried to lose weight? What do you think of the issue of how girls’ body image is affected by the media?

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About sarahk48

I'm an aspiring journalist and an avid runner racing (and reading, and baking, and occasionally studying) her way through college. This blog is a record of my marathon training, cooking creations, and general thoughts on the state of the universe.

3 responses to “This Was Not an Easy Post to Write”

  1. jocelyn (@enthusiasticrun) says :

    This is a really interesting post. I remember in college I was obsessed with every little thing that I ate, and it was probably not healthy, but looking back on it, I sort of wished I would have been less obsessed and enjoyed the college experience more!

    After college I gain weight because I decided that being obsessed with what I ate wasn’t fun anymore…

    So I guess my point is, try not to take it too seriously (easier said than done, I know), but make sure you are HAVING FUN in college and enjoying yourself! Obviously keep running and eat a balanced diet, but the best advice I can give is: Give Yourself a Break! And try not to worry too much about the weight!

    • collegegirlontherun says :

      Thanks for your advice Jocelyn! I definitely am trying to go about this in the healthiest way possible, because I know how quickly dieting can spiral into obsessiveness, and that’s not what I want. But it’s good to be reminded that looking a certain way isn’t the most important thing.

  2. Josie says :

    Very interesting post. Your eating habits sound a lot like mine- I can’t live without sweets!! And in the past I have gained a fair amount of weight even though I was exercising because my diet was so poor. I definitely agree you can’t out-exercise a bad diet. I am working on my eating habits but still a while to go.

    For me- I never respond well to big restrictions or too much focus on it. i.e. I never count calories or say “this food is off limits etc”. I just try to shift to healthier stuff and think more ‘fuel’ then ‘treat’. As I said… still working on it. But I think you definitely have the right idea 🙂

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