I subscribe to Help a Reporter Out (HARO) It is a cool free e-mail that gets sent out three times a day that contains requests from reporters looking for sources. I’ve had the opportunity to be part of several news stories through HARO and I think it’s a fantastic resource and a brilliant idea. It’s run by Peter Shankman
Every e-mail starts out with an advertisement. Today is was from Peter himself talking about some triathlon training that he is doing. It went like this:
“So let’s face it – Anyone who keeps a Triathlon Training Blog called “Train Fatass, Train” – [trigger warning – fat shaming, confusing stereotypical beauty with actual beauty etc.] http://www.trainfatasstrain.com – obviously needs some help if he wants to complete an Ironman
Triathlon without, you know, dying. …I’m doing their “Tri2Lose” program, which also helps me drop weight so I don’t drown in the swim and miss the bike and run completely!”
First, let me be clear that I’m not mad at Peter for saying this. He hasn’t made assumptions about anyone else’s physical fitness, health etc. based on their size; he is speaking strictly about himself here. I completely respect his choice to lose weight, as I want my choices about my body respected.
So. Maybe it’s true for Peter that weight loss will be the key to athletic performance. But maybe, just maybe, it’s not. Maybe it’s because he sees himself as a “fatass” who will drown if he tries to swim at his current weight. I don’t know what’s true for Peter, but I know that there are amazing fat triathlete out there who get through events without drowning all the time.
It got me to thinking about how often I hear people say something similar: I’m going to be able to run a mile once I drop 20lbs, I’ll be able to do those double spins once I drop these 10 lbs, I’ll be able to [insert physical achievement here] as soon as I lose [insert what is usually a completely random of pounds number here].
My question to people saying things like this is simple: Have you done everything that you can possibly do to achieve your physical goal at your current weight? If you want to run a 5k, have you found a program that starts at your current level of physical ability and actually tried to do it? Or are you just using your “need to lose weight” as a tool for procrastination, and as an excuse? Weight loss is not magical, it just means that you weigh less. It doesn’t necessarily make you any stronger or faster or anything-er than you could be right now if you worked at it. Do not let anyone tell you what is possible at your size – you don’t know until you’ve tried. Of course if you’re new to exercise (or returning after an extended break) please see a good size-positive doctor and find a program that is appropriate to your current fitness level (which is not about your weight, but rather about your actual level of physical fitness).
I’m not for or against weight loss, I’m simply suggesting that we consider weight loss a possible (but not certain) side effect of our activity and eating. What if you just start a training program to run a mile right now? Maybe as part of the process you’ll lose weight. Maybe you won’t. But you’ll be in better physical health and able to run a mile at the end of it and why isn’t that the main goal? Why isn’t that the only goal?
I think that when we make weight loss our goal, we take our eye off the actual prize – which is our health. While your health may steadily increase during your mile run training program, it’s possible that your weight will increase, decrease, plateau etc. and you are missing the point if you ignore your actual health gains because you are focused on the scale.
Plenty of healthy fathletes are living proof that weight and health are not the same thing. I think that the difference between us and the people who are waiting to lose weight to be athletes might be in the way that we see ourselves. I would never see myself as a fatass and I would never assume that I can’t do something because of my size. I consider that a huge factor in my success. When you take away “because I’m fat” as an excuse you are forced to look at all of the other stuff that could be going wrong. For example, I was struggling with a sequence in my cha cha that just wasn’t working – I was too slow which hardly ever happens to me. I could easily have said “it’s because of my size”, but since I’m only willing to consider that my size might be the issue after exhausting all possible options, I looked at my technique. Sure enough, I found the culprit was bad technique and fixed the problem – all without losing a pound.
I read Peter’s blog and I absolutely respect the work that he is doing to prepare for the Iron Man (plus, his use of Kenny Loggins “I’m Free (Heaven Helps the Man)” endears him to me forever).
He has a quote on his blog that says: “If you can’t run, then walk. And if you can’t walk, then crawl. Do what you have to do. Just keep moving forward and never, ever give up.” – Dean Karnazes, Ultra Marathon runner.
Notice Mr. Karnazes doesn’t say, first lose 10 pounds then… To borrow another phrase: Just do it!
Keep your eye on what is important – are you eating foods that nourish your body and make you happy? Are you doing movement that you enjoy? Do you have a plan in action to meet your fitness goals (not weight loss goals, but actual fitness goals)? Then pat yourself on the back for living a healthy lifestyle. If not, why not make a few choices today in that direction and see how you feel?
Either way, might I suggest that you get the hell off of your scale and go for whatever it is that you want to do right now.