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What is an IRONMAN?

It’s a triathlon – 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and 26.2 mile run done consecutively in under 17 hours.

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Why in god’s name would you do that?

Well, when you cross the finish line they give you a medal and a guy named Mike Reilly yells “[YOUR NAME] YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!”

No, seriously.  Why?

The medal/Mike Reilly thing is a big part of it, I’m not gonna lie.  This is also an extension of a project that I started a couple of years ago.  I’ve done a lot of athletic things in my life including sports and dance, but always stuff at which I have natural talent.  I decided that I wanted to push outside of my comfort zone and do things at which I seem to have absolutely no natural ability. I did a marathon and I sucked pretty bad at that, so I basically thought – what could I suck at that’s even more terrible than a marathon – and this is what I arrived at.

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How much weight are you hoping to lose?

Absolutely none.  I am a Size Acceptance activist and a Health at Every Size practitioner and so my goals are purely about doing the IRONMAN and I’m happy for my weight to settle wherever it does.

If you’re not trying to lose weight, what are you trying to do?

Did I mention the medal? Actually doing stuff like this is also part of my activism.  Nobody of any size is ever obligated to be involved in exercise/fitness/sport, but for those of us who are fat who do enjoy these things, the fitness world can be an unwelcoming place.  From the trouble finding clothes in our size, to the street harassment that we face, to the insistence that no matter what we achieve athletically we will never deserve to be called athletes until we look a certain way, to people who insist that we shouldn’t even try to achieve athletically until we are thin, there are plenty of impediments to fat people getting involved in the fitness world.

There are lots of fathletes but often we get ignored or pushed aside in favor of those who “look like athletes” (often under the ridiculous notion that showing fat people successful at anything other than weight loss will “promote obesity” as if people will see a fat marathoner and say “I want to do a marathon, I guess first I have to gain a bunch of weight and then I’ll go for a walk.”)  By vocally participating in athletics that we enjoy, by refusing to be pushed aside, we get to speak for ourselves instead of being spoken about or at in language steeped in assumption and stereotypes, and we get to have and be role models.

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I notice you call yourself fat, like, a lot. What gives?

To me the word fat is, or at least should be, a simple descriptor.  I’m a short, fat, brunette. Because society has allowed the stigmatization of fat people however, it’s become a “bad word.”  When I’m being picked up at the airport for a speaking gig I’ll tell the person picking me up “I’ll be the short, fat, brunette in the blue dress” Very often they will reflexively say “Don’t call yourself fat!” or “You’re not fat”  Never in my life has someone said “Don’t call yourself brunette!” or “You’re not short!”

I like the word fat because it doesn’t erroneously conflate the way I look with my health the way that words like “overweight” and “obese” do, and because it’s one of the ways that I tell my bullies they can’t have my lunch money anymore.  I totally respect those who prefer not to use it for themselves, but I am definitely going to use it for me.  The idea that I shouldn’t use the word “fat” because people have heaped their stigma on my descriptor doesn’t work for me.  I just don’t think that making “fat” the Voldemort of adjectives is really going to do anything to help people who are, in fact, fat whether we call ourselves that or not.

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What are Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size and what do they have to do with this?

Size Acceptance is a civil rights movement that says that the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and being treated with basic respect, are not size, health, or habit dependent. It says that fat people have the right to live in fat bodies without shame, stigma, bullying, or oppression and it doesn’t matter why we’re fat, what being fat means, or if we could become thin.

Health at Every Size is a personal health practice as well as paradigm for healthcare that says:

  • Knowing that health is multi-dimensional, not an obligation, not entirely within our control, not a barometer of worthiness, and not guaranteed under any circumstances…
  • Knowing that how highly people prioritize their health and the path that they choose to get there are intensely personal decisions…
  • Knowing that those decisions can be limited by things including access and oppression…
  • The pursuit of better odds for health should focus on behaviors rather than the manipulation of body size.

I want to be clear that doing an IRONMAN is not about my health.  The research shows that we get the most health benefits from the first 150 minutes of moderate exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, per week and that the benefits are pretty granular after that.  From my perspective this is about pushing the boundaries and trying to achieve something that is pretty extraordinary, and keeping myself healthy – in terms of injury free, nourished etc. – are important in the process.  But if what I was trying to do was simply give myself the best odds for good health, I would not be doing this.

Click here for more information about the research on Health at Every Size

Click here for more information about Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size

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What’s the Good Fatty/Bad Fatty Dichotomy and why do you have your panties in such a twist about it?

The idea behind the Good Fatty/Bad Fatty dichotomy is that fat people who do the “right” things in the estimation of the person doing the judging deserve to be treated better than fat people who aren’t doing the “right” things.

Those of us who are involved in fitness/athletics/sport are often judged to be “good fatties” and so we get a certain amount of privilege because of that.  We don’t ask for it and we typically can’t give it away but we can use and and I would like to use my privilege to say that I think that the GFBFD needs to die and I want to actively help kill it, kill it, kill it.

I don’t think that doing an IRONMAN (or participating in exercise/fitness/sport etc. in any way) is any more laudable than the hobbies that other people have.  I think it’s deeply unfortunate that we have created a social construct which suggests that we should mistreat some people because of how they look unless they participate in certain activisites.  And this often bites me in the ass when people who are giving me”credit” for “trying” to “do something” about my body find out that all I’m trying to do is finish an IRONMAN, that I’m perfectly happy with my body, and that I don’t care at all what they think.

If you’re thinking “but what about all those tax dollars fat people are always costing everyone” then I would suggest you meander over here.

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It took you almost 13 hours to complete a marathon, how are you ever going to do all of this in 17 hours?

Your guess is as good as mine.  I kid, I kid.  I trained to walk the Seattle marathon in about 8.5 hours.  It took me, you know… longer than that.  I was a terrible, horrible, awful, terrible day.  I also trained to walk it, and just to finish.  Now that my goals have changed, so has my training.  I’ve got an amazing coach who has finished a number of IRONMAN races and coached many others to finish and I’m going after this new goal.

One of the benefits of my ridiculously long marathon is that I reminded myself that, even when it’s horrible, I won’t quit.   The marathon wasn’t the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life, but it is the thing that I most aggressively and frequently wanted to quit, but I played all the way to the whistle, I got my medal (and I owe my Best Friend for the rest of our lives for doing it with me – thanks Kel!)

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Do you actually get hatemail about this?

Oh yes. When I announced that I was going to do the first marathon I got a ton of hatemail, including people who said things like “A part of me sincerely hopes she dies doing that marathon.”  And that’s odd because I know a lot of people who have done marathons, and some had people in their lives who were concerned about the safety of the undertaking, but I’m the only person I know of who announced their intention of doing a marathon only to be told that people were actively hoping I would die doing it.  If you want to see some of my more interesting hatemail, you are welcome to check out my hatemail page.

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Do you think everyone should do this?

Hell no.  I absolutely despise all that “What’s your excuse?”  bullshit – nobody needs an excuse to make different decisions or set different priorities than I, or anyone else, does. What I want is for everyone to have all of the options available to them, for people not to be discouraged from, or stigmatized or shamed for, participating in athletics, and for each person’s choices (including not to be involved in sport/fitness/athletics) to be respected.

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Why did you do a whole separate blog for your IRONMAN, why not just do it as part of your danceswithfat blog?

My main blog focuses on Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size, it’s been around a long time and I am lucky to have a following of amazing people. A lot of my readers really appreciate what I have to say about SA and HAES don’t give a crap about my IRONMAN training regimen, and who can blame them?  I also have the sense that I might want to talk about the IRONMAN a lot and I don’t want it to take over my other blog.  So I shook my Magic 8 Ball and all signs pointed to creating another blog.

Got a question?  Ask in the comments!

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6 Responses to FAQ

  1. Karen says:

    What an inspiration! Why no posts about your runs or training? Weekly (or more) updates might help me get a little more motivated too. I really want to be active.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Karen,

      Thanks for your kind words about the blog, I’m glad that you like it! Currently I’m splitting the updates between this blog and my main blog at http://www.danceswithfat.org – I blog marathon updates on Sundays so you can always check over there for more inspiration. If my posts aren’t what you need for motivation (or even if they are) I would also absolutely encourage you to check out other bloggers to get your needs met. Good luck and happy motivating!



  2. Gemma says:

    I’m so excited to read your adventures with this. I’ve been toying with going towards triathalon for ages, but 1. I dislike swimming, 2. I tend to fall off bikes. So this can be my guilty pleasure reading 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Bridget says:

    You are amazing! I did the Iron Girl Sprint in 2011 at 240 pounds and 5’2. It wasn’t the swim, bike or run that scared me, it was the darn tri suit! I was amazed at how much encouragement I got (I trained with Team in Training) and expected a lot of “you can’t do that!”, but instead most of what I got was “Wow, I could NEVER do that! Way to go!”. One day I will do another (the training, even for a sprint, takes a lot of time) maybe for that race…maybe for that one, the race shirt will fit me! I would encourage you to read “Slow Fat Triathlete” If you haven’t already! I think you, me and the writer just may be soul sisters! Have fun (can I even say that?) with your training, go get ’em and F the haters who are probably sitting on their couch! One foot in front of the other! ROCK ON!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Grace says:

    I just found your blog and want to say you are absolutely fucking awesome, and truly an inspiration!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Catt Burnett says:

    You go Girl! I wanted to do an Iron Man Triathlon for years, just to see if I could finish. But I always said “Well, after I lose some weight.” Now I’m 53, I’ve never lost the weight, so naturally never did a triathlon. I haven’t completely given up though, I have started lifting weights, putting my focus on eating right and getting strong, period, not size or numbers. Best of luck on your competition.

    Liked by 1 person

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