Some stories make you think, some make you move…some will change your life. Melissa’s story will do all three, Running and No Longer Living In A Fat Suit, a guest post.
Imagine living your whole life feeling intimidated by a simple staircase or being the fattest kid in gym class only to grow up to become the fattest mom in the PTA.
Living obese is like wearing a fat suit, only it’s not a suit—it’s your skin and you can’t take it off. The most backwards part is that you wear it because you want to feel invisible.
Living fat is humiliating, degrading, and downright sad for many people.
I knew it well because, in a nutshell, until about five years ago, that was me. That’s when I made a series of lifestyle changes that placed me on a whole new trajectory toward health and happiness. It’s not easy, but I can tell you, it’s worth it: You’re worth it.
Maybe you’re not obese, but struggling with a few extra pounds. Or you’re 150 pounds overweight and looking for answers—the soul-searching, gut-wrenching truth—as to WHY, what GOT you there, and HOW on God’s green earth could you shed the fat suit once and for all.
My own weight struggles have roots in my childhood when I endured sexual and emotional abuse by family members. Home is supposed to be safe and nurturing, this wasn’t the case for me. I grew up numbing myself to my emotions, and food became my best friend. If I was sad, food gave me a quick shot of energy. If I was bored, it kept me company. If I was angry, it created a barrier from the pain. Feeling full numbed me to the emotional void I was experiencing.
Everyone hits a limit: the moment when you say ENOUGH. I hit mine after dropping my kids at school. I was mulling over some comments made by my husband the day before. It wasn’t anything new; it was a sentiment he expressed often, he was worried about my health. He reminded me I might die of a heart attack, given my family history of cardiac disease.
For one reason or another, that day the comment sunk in. I had already lost 40 pounds from my highest weight, but stalled out and felt hopeless. I was in a perfect storm of shame, frustration, and exhaustion. Instead of heading home to soothe my woes with a bag of Doritos I drove straight to a Jenny Craig center. I had no appointment. I just walked in, sat down, and whimpered, “Help, please.” I finally asked for help.
The staff matched me with their toughest consultant who had a reputation for pointing out a person’s blind spots and taking no bull. It was a match made in heifer heaven. We became fast friends, and I hung on her every word, including her suggestion to start exercising: Her support helped me lose over 70 pounds— a total weight loss of 110 pounds that year.
Turned out, slimming down was only the first step. I wanted to get fit. A friend of mine challenged me to run a half marathon. I laughed, saying: “The only way I’m running is if someone is chasing me!” I thought about it but I couldn’t think of enough reasons to say “no.” I accepted the challenge.
I had no idea what to expect during training but figured: How hard could it be? I downloaded the popular app, Couch-to-5K, and gulped. The question changed to: How dumb could I be? On my first run, I wore three sports bras (endowed ladies, you can relate!) and couldn’t make it more than 20 seconds before screaming for an ambulance and scanning my surroundings for the nearest AED. It took every fiber of my being to not quit that day.
I managed to graduate from the C25K program and started prepping for the half marathon.
Thankfully, I found a running partner who lived nearby (my friend who challenged me lived in another state). My partner kept me company but our commitment to training outstripped our intelligence. We neglected to find a proper plan and mistakenly upped our mileage. We would run 8 miles every training day for a week and 9 miles the next. This was a bad idea. There are training programs for a reason. As a result, my knees took a turn for the worse.
Fast forward to race day. The energy was electric, and I was excited to share the excitement with the friend who originally issued the challenge. We successfully completed the half marathon, with yours truly limping across the finish line at just past the 3-hour mark. My body was wrecked; my knees were creaking and crackling. I loved every minute of it. I caught the running bug.
I decided to sign up for another race, but I knew I needed a dose of fun to my training regimen. I found a new running group, and discovered I was right: Running CAN be fun. Soon, I was addicted. That’s all it took: an understanding group of runners who were in it for the joy of just being out there. The whole world opened up to me at that point.
Cue the “I WANT TO RUN ALL THE RACES!” meme. I signed up for every race I could find, from 5k to 10k and more half marathons. I’ve been running for over 4 years. I’ve learned about proper running shoes. I’ve learned that some days are better than others. I’ve learned that every run isn’t going to be more amazing than the last, and that’s ok. It’s like life: some days are great, other days not so much. But you don’t give up. You just keep running, one foot in front of the other, and you get it done. I learned that runners are some of the most amazingly kind people in the world.
Mostly I’ve learned that I no longer have to wear the fat suit.
Running has become my sanity, clearing my head on bad days, and my salvation, invigorating me on the good ones. The best part: it’s introduced me to a whole new world. The running community is an entire subculture, it turns out. I never met a stranger in a runner; when you share the love for running with someone, there’s an unstated bond that lasts a lifetime— at least as long as you’ve got the spirit and two legs to keep going.
There’s no better feeling than knowing that the best is yet to come.
Melissa Kahn is a Jenny Craig brand ambassador and proud founder of Run, Heifer, Run! —a fun-loving community of fitness enthusiasts dedicated to commonsense solutions for weight loss and healthy living. Melissa competes in triathlons now, having lost over 100 pounds, or the equivalent of 45 kilos of fear. She has maintained her healthy weight for more than five years—another accomplishment considering she’s yet to meet a cookie she doesn’t like. Melissa lives in Phoenix with her husband Dave (a pilot), four foul-smelling teenagers and two spazzy dogs.