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Why I Am Sick of Picking Sides

What sides?

Fat or Thin.

I am so SICK of talking about fat and thin.  And having to play on one team or the other.

Okay, so I’ve never actually been asked to play on the Skinny Team. With the thin people.  Like, ever.  And being in a mind-F sport of fitness like triathlon… well, I really chose awesomely in my pursuit of THIS sport.

So people (the media and others) in our sport love to keep Swim Bike Mom close to their heart.  All, “oh bless it, she’s the sweetest… she does so much for our sport… but OH, but dear GOD, please keep her behind the scenes… steal her ideas. Use what she’s built, and written and done… but for shitssake please, hide her.”

I get it, man. Trust me, I do.

And trust me when I say that every “fat” girl or “former fat girl” in the world “gets it” too.

So… the Skinny Team.  I don’t get to play on that playground.  Except, the problem is that I chose triathlon as MY PLAYGROUND.  

[The playground reference comes from a post last year when I was talking to my husband about being too fat or too slow to play with the cool kids on their triathlon playground.  He said, “Here’s the thing… you have CHOSEN to make triathlon your PLAYGROUND.  And it is a playground of lots of fitness, thin-ness, and speed. It’s a playground that will mess with your mind, too.  It’s full of kids who are different than you are.  And maybe somewhere along the way, you’ve ingrained that in your own head way more than you should have. And of course, looking at the wide picture, hey, maybe you DON’T technically ‘fit in.’

“Those triathlete kids on the playground are swinging high on the swings, fast and furious.  And you’re over there, hanging out on the monkey bars, doing your tri thing to the beat of a whole other drum.

“In reality, the fast and furious kids on the swings don’t care that you are on the monkey bars–they’re too busy with their own stuff.  

…”You are doing your thing.  And wait–don’t forget the kids who AREN’T even ON the playground. The ones who are looking at ALL OF YOU from the street thinking: ‘Wow, I wish I had the courage/balls/strength to do what they are doing! That crazy blonde one on the monkey bars looks like she is having so much fun!’

“Mere, you have worked so hard in this sport and only YOU can change YOUR perception of yourself.  Be beautiful in your own mind, and keep being a damn triathlete. It’s YOUR playground too. You need to step back, realize WHO you are and what you have accomplished FOR YOURSELF.

“Now get back on the monkey bars.”]

Yep. It’s been UP TO ME to change the perception of myself.

I was a chubby kid. An athletic, but pot-bellied teenager, and it’s been a yo-yo since then.  One time, back in 1997, I was cutting weight for an Olympic Weightlifting event.  I lost 14 pounds in two weeks, and I passed out in the hallway during the middle of the night.  A fond time in my life to which my dad still reminds me: “You never looked better than that one time before that weightlifting meet…”

Holy crap.  Also known as, “You looked great that one time you nearly died.”

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[I jest (sort of), but I will tell you. It’s certainly weird when someone says that “best” you ever looked was the result of a really bad situation.]

So fast forward two decades, I am watching the television and I see Oprah on her Weight Watchers commercials. And I cringe, and say to myself, “Oh Oprah. We meet again.”

Because in all seriousness, I have made NO secret of the fact that I have enormously struggled over the years with my weight, my self-esteem, my body image and everything else in between. And Oprah gets to eat bread, and I am rocking almost a year of clean eating with Swim Bike Fuel, and almost 90 days sober, down four POUNDS of fat in the last four weeks, and all of that… and really, I feel great.

I really do.  My playground is good, and mentally, I am in a good place.

But then I was tagged like fifty times in a recent online article about why Plus-Size Athletes are our new athletic heroes.  [NOTE: SINCE THE PUBLICATION OF THIS POST, THE EDITOR OF THE ONLINE ARTICLE REMOVED THIS PARAGRAPH FROM THE POST]

“Yay, Swim Bike Mom was mentioned.”

Nevermind the fact, that despite the fact that I may weigh more than three giant sacks of granite, I’m not actually plus-sized.

Nor was I asked about being referenced and cited in that article.  And finally, and when I posted a comment about THAT, it was promptly deleted from the blog.  (Gotta love blogging integrity.)

Furthermore, the writing in that article was SO confusing that I have no idea if I am being complimented, back-handedly complimented, or insulted…

So here’s the quote from the article:

“Either you love seeing a fat girl racing or you hate it.  There’s not a lot of in-between,” […] noting the extreme negative and positive posts about a very large triathlete finisher on the popular body-size-neutral sports blog “Swim Bike Mom.”

First of all, I can’t tell if I am the one being called a “very large triathlete finisher” or if it’s in reference to someone else who I may have mentioned on the blog.  I did write a post 100 years ago about a picture of a large triathlete and how I thought she was awesome, and was not to be fat-shamed.  There was some backlash about her picture–and I stood up and said, “Hey – what in the heck. She’s out there showing up and that is AMAZING!”  [Which, I stand by that comment by the way…]

[And, if I am being called a “very large triathlete finisher,” then I would like to say a few choice words about that.]

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Next, what in the bloody hell is a “body-size-neutral sports blog”?

Because I consider SBM many things – but I don’t think I would ever label SBM as a “body-neutral-sports blog”.  And then, because I wasn’t sure what in the world “body neutrality” meant, I looked it up.

And I came across this article, which stated:

  • …body neutrality… the acceptance of our bodies as-are, for the understanding that we are already enough, for the freedom to go about our days without a strong focus (positive or negative) on our physical shells — either as a step toward body positivity or as a goal in and of itself.
  • Body neutrality is body acceptance, a stop on the train to body love. You can get off here or stay on for the ride toward the final destination. The point is, once you’re here, you’ll never look back and long for the place that you left.

Oh.  Aw, hell.  Looks like I just might be a body-neutral sports blogger.  Okay. So maybe I am.

But I can tell you what I am not.  I am not a fat-shamer.  And I am also not a fat-flag-flier either.  I am not going to pretend that when I finished Ironman 70.3 Florida in 2014, way fatter than I cared to be and way more out of shape than I had hoped… I can’t say that I was all “yay me” and “body positive me”…because here’s the truth:

I was miserable. At that size.  At that stage of MY personal athleticism.

We all have a tipping point. The point where WE FEEL GOOD about ourselves.  Size or weight or 5k pace.

There IS a tipping point. And ONLY WE know where that is.

I don’t like to say Body Positive anything, about anyone. That’s THEIR choice.  We get to choose where we fall on the body positive scale of things.  I don’t care if you are fat, thin or somewhere in between… if you are HAPPY… truly happy, then please, by all means rock on with your bad self.

Me, however?

I am not cool with me beyond a certain tipping point in my size.  And it’s not the weight on the scale…. it’s how my pants fit, it’s how much I am running, and it’s how much cycling I have been doing… it’s what I have been eating. AND it all ties together.

And I am THE ONLY PERSON who knows how and exactly where that is–FOR ME.

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I will go ahead and say this: I am so SICK and TIRED about the inspirational plus-size athlete, inspirational bullshit.

You know why?

Because you’re either an athlete… or you’re not.  You either want to be an athlete, or you don’t.  I don’t care WHAT size you are—if you are working hard towards a goal, then who cares if you are inspirational or fat or thin or green or pink.

(Maybe this is where I am a body-size-neutral sports blogger? Maybe I actually am body neutral… because I don’t care what size you are… I care if you train hard and work hard and stop whining about the things you CAN actually control.)

Here’s the thing about me.  I started this sport squishy and out of shape and sad and angry.  But I started this sport so I didn’t have to stay exactly there.

I wanted to change.  I wanted to be changed from the inside out.  I wanted better and more, and different.

And another thing about me?

I’m a freaking athlete. I may be a slow(er) runner, but that’s just taken years to progress. I’m an Ironman. I train 9-17 hours a week, depending on the week.  I eat well. I don’t really eat sugar anymore. I can’t tell you the last time I ate fast food.  And I really, truly CARE about my health… not my weight. My health.  My children.  My fitness. I care about that.

And now, I care about my performance on my triathlon playground.

I weight train on Tuesdays and Thursdays with a super hot, super ripped, thin and fit girl. I would peg her for 100 pounds, soaking wet. We got to talking about the scale today.  And she’s 148 pounds–of lean, hard and rocking strength.  She looks amazing.  But most of all?  She’s strong as hell.  And as I weighed-in today at Lifetime, I learned that I had lost FOUR POUNDS of fat in the past four weeks.  Gained two pounds of muscle, and was holding on to two excess pounds of water (I had a really salty dinner last night!). And guess how much weight loss that was?  ZERO NET LOSS.   Because there is SO MUCH MORE to the story than the number on the scale.  My insides and muscles are doing awesome things, because I am training hard and fueling like an animal.

And my body?

Well, it’s a machine. And there is SO MUCH MORE to MY damn story than an “inspirational plus-size” person…

I AM an Athena triathlete only because I happen to weigh more than 165 pounds.  And guess what? I probably always will weigh more than that. Because you know that “amazing” time back in 1997 when I looked awesome? I was cutting weight …to make the 166 pound class.  With my four-pack abs and all.

And you know what else?

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I was a kick-ass athlete then.

And I am a kick-ass athlete now.  Exactly where I am.  And exactly where I aim to be.  Exactly where I am going.

And if you work hard, and you want better… if you want to be better?  Then stop putting yourself in some “inspirational plus size” or “whatever box” too.  No boxes allowed.

Just be.

Be the athlete you are.  BE THE ATHLETE THAT YOU ARE.  Own it.  Stop qualifying it because of size or weight.

Just BE an athlete. (Or don’t be.)  BE who you want to be… in the body you have now, and improve it… IF YOU WANT TO.

Because, I’m not going to judge YOU about any of it… I’m not going to put you in a box of “inspirational skinny girl” or “fantastic plus-size role model” or anywhere you don’t want to be.

It’s your world!  It’s YOURS.  Do exactly what YOU want. Be exactly WHO you want to be.

In the meantime, stop putting me in some sort of plus-size, fat-whatever neutral positive or negative box.

Because I don’t belong there either.

I am an athlete.   Period.

32 Comments

  • Shannon

    March 8, 2016 at 5:45 pm

    I ALWAYS thought you were badass for even completing those races. I can’t even imagine doing those distances! Don’t let them get you down. The blogger probably has no idea how insulting/hurtful those comments were. That’s the problem with being narrow minded.

    Reply
  • Ashley Wilkinson

    March 8, 2016 at 6:06 pm

    I’ve always enjoyed your blog, and lately it’s just getting better and better. I so appreciate your authenticity. Keep on keepin’ it real! ???

    Reply
  • Stephanie

    March 8, 2016 at 6:39 pm

    Solid post. I have had a similar journey, and am still struggling at times not to look in the mirror (or the scale) and be disappointed. But here’s the truth- I do this for ME. I do this to be healthy, and set an example for my kids. So yeah- I’m 41 years old and 160 pounds. I really just don’t get lighter than that no matter what I do. But I swam 2500 this morning and am getting ready to go run for an hour. I couldn’t swim a full lap or run for a mile straight as little as 3 years ago. So…look in the mirror with pride about how far you’ve come- literally. Oh- And screw anyone who stands in our way or wants to label us anything other than “fucking awesome”. Hmmm…maybe that could be a new tshirt lol- swim .bike. Fucking awesome.

    Reply
  • Donna Penney

    March 8, 2016 at 6:49 pm

    Preach it, Sistah!!! Hell Yeah!!

    And just for the record, I didn’t start reading your blog because of anything other than you were a mom and a triathlete like me and I needed your voice. We shared the same struggles–parenting little ones, struggling with depression and the whole work/life/training balance. I feel less alone because you write your feelings, which are so much like my own it’s weird. I’ve laughed and cried reading your blog and could care less what you weigh, but I totally get you being sick of others pigeon holing you. I guess that comes with the territory of being a super successful blogger.

    Reply
  • Lesley

    March 8, 2016 at 6:55 pm

    I was diagnosed with a degenerative neurological disease in 1996. When I was really sick, like “walking-with-a-cane sick, I HATED those “inspirational” stories. People who were so strong that they climbed Everest with no legs or play baseball with one hand. Please don’t miss understand, I congratulate those people for their stubbornness and strength of character. But I’ve always felt that they were “inspirational” only because it made the people watching or reading the story more comfortable with their disability. I think that’s true for plus sized athletes as well. People feel awkward when they see a big woman on a bike so they make it “inspirational” it used to make me mad, then it made me sad now… I feel like “I’m sorry if I make you uncomfortable but you… You are not my problem.”
    Btw this was exactly what I personally needed to read right now. Thank you.

    Reply
  • Beth @ Paces and Places

    March 8, 2016 at 7:55 pm

    Great article! The part about each of us picking our own tipping point really resonated with me. I’m currently trying to lose a few pounds I’ve recently gained, even though I’m overall pretty light. But that doesn’t mean I judge other people who are happy (or unhappy) at a higher weight than me. I really think it’s a vocal minority that cause all the hatred of people different sizes…or at least I hope so. Why has is become acceptable to have and voice opinions on someone else’s size?! Thanks for always being a positive, inspiring and honest place on the Internet.

    Reply
  • Rachel

    March 8, 2016 at 9:10 pm

    “And I really, truly CARE about my health… not my weight. My health. My children. My fitness. I care about that.”
    — Exactly!!! I have followed you for several years because you are real. Real with yourself and real with your followers. You inspire, not because of your weight, but because of your Bad Ass performance as an Iron Man Triathlete, professional, wife, and mother through the roller coaster of life. You are a role model to your children of health, self confidence, and perserverance. Your husband is an amazing support! You were meant for this playground! Thank you for playing the game and bringing us along for the ride!

    Reply
  • Lisa Hemann

    March 8, 2016 at 11:21 pm

    THANK YOU! I always feel like it’s a little condescending to be shoved in the inspirational fat girl box. I just want to be a bad ass athlete on the same field as all the other badasses. Period.

    Reply
  • nikki

    March 9, 2016 at 12:36 am

    very thoughtful post
    in our society labels are convenient (thin, thick, short, tall, ripped, plus-size, etc.) just look at the big deal being made with the current swimsuit issue with Ashley Graham.
    let me be completely honest, I began running a couple of years ago and at first I liked it and lost some weight, however because I am plus sized I found staying encouraged began to become more difficult, especially since most of the runners I ran with are half my size about- no joke.
    So I’ve taken a break from racing, but I still workout and the scale doesn’t move much now, but I enjoy my workouts way more-concentrating more on HIIT, cross-fit type workouts and weightlifting. For me taking a break from racing allows myself a break from comparison-comparsion from my last performance and/or from others. Competition of course is a good thing and getting outside our comfort zone allows growth, but sometimes we can not escape the thoughts of “if only” if only I was skinner I could run faster (which I know is true for me:) if only I could stay on my program, etc, etc……
    there is a fine balance in becoming a better version of ourselves in the context of sport and also realizing that this is only part of who we are, because if it consumes too much our identity (and feelings of self worth ) we begin to see things from only a narrow perspective.

    Reply
  • Karen

    March 9, 2016 at 6:05 am

    I started following you because you have so much to share that I and so many others relate to and you write in such a funny and frank way. This post was brilliant! Thanks for all your true and heartfull words!

    Reply
  • Amy

    March 9, 2016 at 10:12 am

    Girl – just saying – you are invited to play in my playground anytime!

    I can’t imagine being mentioned in an article without being asked. That would suck. Actually yesterday in my kids carpool yesterday we talked about that a little bit. My son is obsessed with famous people and so we were talking about how when you are famous people can be really mean and I think that is tough.

    Reply
  • Jan Rivers

    March 9, 2016 at 11:07 am

    Great message and especially accessible because you share what’s going on *inside you* as you grapple with where you are on the Playground.
    I also think this is true in terms of age. I’m not “an inspirational older athlete” (I’m 51). I’m an athlete, period.

    Reply
  • Dawn

    March 9, 2016 at 11:07 am

    I needed to read this after starting off the week with two horrible workouts, a week and a half before my season kicks off with a sprint. This is my ninth month of tri-ing, and last night after a terrible time on the bike I cried in the parking lot where no one could see me. I am always the slowest, and always the weakest (I train with a team, but do have some individual coaching) and feel like I am not getting any better while everyone else kicks ass. I know that I am at a distinct disadvantage after battling cancer for three years and desperately trying to deal with my relationship with alcohol, and I need to be gentle and patient with myself given that tri success is not going to happen overnight, or even in nine months – especially given those factors. I also know that this is supposed to be fun, and feeling like a failure is starting to get in the way of that. I am in awe of and so appreciative of your honesty and openness, especially regarding your sobriety. I am sure you know that this really does inspire so many of us to better understand ourselves and how to use our strengths and weaknesses to make our experiences truly our own. I cannot wait to meet you when you come to DC week after next.

    Reply
  • Michelle Smith Rapoza

    March 9, 2016 at 12:52 pm

    “And if you work hard, and you want better… if you want to be better? Then stop putting yourself in some “inspirational plus size” or “whatever box” too. No boxes allowed.” No boxes allowed! Wow, I’m so thankful I was introduced to your blog via Lisa Mc. This is just what I needed to read to continue supporting my daughter with her weight loss journey and STOP putting her in an inspirational plus size box. Together we will all find our playground! One day at a time! Thank you. I’m a new follower for sure!

    Reply
  • Mary Moreno

    March 9, 2016 at 9:58 pm

    Thank you! So helpful! I am 55, with gray hair and a generous Mom body (two kids later). Sometimes I feel like the oldest one at the race, with all the young skinnies around with their BMI’s of 2. I recently did a half marathon and I was saying to myself, “don’t worry, nobody even sees you.” Sad, but on some levels true.
    But whether they see me or not, I am an athlete. Plus now I am learning to skate ski, and OMG is that ever gnarly!!! So yay Me!! Thanks SBM!!!!

    Reply
  • TriBabe Terry

    March 10, 2016 at 11:07 am

    Once again, you have said what I needed to hear when I needed to hear it. Today I am 2 years post bariatric surgery. I am 70 lbs above where I wanted to be, but also 70 lbs less than I was when I had surgery. I know I’m not eating like I should and I do complain about it. But, this is something I can control and so I should, at least, quit bitching about it.

    Your thoughts on being a plus-sized inspiration really hit home. I’ve said more than once that I’m tired of being a f*#$ing inspiration. I appreciate that I’ve helped people and that people care about how I do, but sometimes it’s tiring. I just want to be one of the “normal” kids – not last in an event, not worrying about whether I will make the cutoff times, not worrying about making my friends/training partners go slower than they want. But for right now, that’s my reality – I can work to change it, but I need to accept it. I need to accept that I weigh more than I want. I need to accept me for who I am and know that I can change some of the things I don’t like.

    Thanks Mere for being you, for putting yourself out there, for sharing, for saying things I thought I was the only one that felt that way and for being one of the positive voices in my head.

    Reply
  • Nancy

    March 11, 2016 at 2:07 pm

    What does this post even mean? You have a book, a recurring guest column in the main magazine of this sport, your own brand, your own nutrition program, a huge following…who do you think is trying to “hide” you? What does THAT even mean?

    This post was a rambling hot mess, and it makes you sound paranoid.

    Reply
  • David

    March 14, 2016 at 2:38 pm

    Why can’t we just be on the same side? That of being an athlete!! Tired of seeing people use labels that describe body type, body size or even skin color! Who cares already!! Also tired of seeing bloggers who say things about other bloggers that they would not say to their face!! Seriously grow up people!! Love this site and the message here!! Meredith you are a kick ass athlete who is tearing down the walls that have been holding you back and living a kick ass life!! You are beautiful on the outside and the inside!! Keep on moving forward and kicking ass!!! You are an inspirational Athlete!!

    Reply
  • Lynne

    March 15, 2016 at 1:53 pm

    LOVE reading your blogs! I actually come at the same issue from the completely opposite direction. I’m small framed and on the thin side, but I’m still a VERY slow runner (or ‘run/walker’ because that’s what I generally do). I have people tell me that they’re surprised I struggle with the run because “you look like a runner”. Well…I’ve been to a bunch of races, and I couldn’t begin to tell you what a runner or a triathlete ‘looks like’ because we’re all different and bring our own individual combinations of talents and demons to every race. I thank you, along with all your other followers, for being authentic, for making us smile, for inspiring us to work hard and play hard, and helping all of us be stronger versions of ourselves!

    Reply

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