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"Fat girl" challenges runners' stereotypes

Charlotte Hilton Andersen is the author of the book The Great Fitness Experiment: One Year of Trying Everything and runs the popular health and fitness website of the same name, where she tries out a new workout every month, specializing...

They said she was too fat to run, so she put it on a T-shirt

"Run, Fatty, run!" were the words that changed Julie Creffield's mind about running. The taunt, yelled at her during her first race, didn't scare her away from running. Instead she decided to prove her haters wrong.

Julie started the website The Fat Girls' Guide to Running and runs races wearing a T-shirt that challenges, "Too fat to run?" Her goal, she says, is "to prove slim doesn't equal fit and fat doesn't always equate to being unhealthy."

Our society likes to make it seem like "real running" is the exclusive domain of fitness models and Olympians when in truth all you need to run is a pair of shoes and the desire. Actually you don't technically even need the shoes. Running, and exercise in general, is for everybody — literally every person with a body. Heck, I wouldn't ban a ghost from running if one showed up at the starting line.

They said she was too fat to run, so she put it on a T-shirt

Photo credit: Vipdigitalpics

While the "too fat to run" trope is common, there are a lot of reasons that women feel like they're not allowed to run. Here are just a few that I've heard:

  • "I'm too slow to run."
  • "I'm too out of shape to run."
  • "I'm too pregnant/breastfeeding/stuck with little kids to run."
  • "I'm too old to run."
  • "I'm too scared to run."

It's not that these aren't valid reasons — certainly with pregnancy and other health conditions you should follow your doctor's orders and pay attention to how your body feels — but rather that these don't automatically disqualify you from running if that is something you want to do.

Another trap that women can fall into is thinking that running is only good if it helps you lose weight. Julie says that she has only lost a little weight running but emphasizes that losing weight isn't her goal. Rather she's just aiming for good health by focusing on eating a healthy diet, exercising in a way that makes her happy and not worrying too much about the rest.

They said she was too fat to run, so she put it on a T-shirt

Photo credit: Vipdigitalpics

"Obesity is a huge concern around the world, but inactivity is the big killer of our time," she said in an interview with the Daily Mail. "Many people simply think that running is something that fat women can't or shouldn't do at all, including some medical professionals — I am on a mission to prove otherwise."

I hope she succeeds in getting her message out. Running is not the end-all and be-all of fitness and if you don't like it there are so many other ways to get your sweat on. But no one should be discouraged from getting out there simply because they are worried they're "too" anything.

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