“Why are you running?”

I was just standing by the traffic light junction, jogging on the spot when this unassuming old lady, almost half my size, posed me this question.

I think I was more surprised by the fact that a cute old lady was the one asking me this, in perfect english, than the fact that anyone was talking to me during a jog.

Well, she didn’t really pose me just this one question. She kind of began this monologue, and she spoke with such conviction, it almost made me feel sad.

Sad because of what she was saying, not so much how she was saying it.

Apart from my short replies (which I included in brackets) interspersed between her excited banter, her monologue went something along the lines of:

“Why are you running?
(I like to jog to stay healthy and it helps me destress)

Do you run everyday?
(No, just a few times a week)

Does it help you?
(Help me keep fit? It makes me feel happier!)

Do you think you are fit? You don’t look fat, why are you running?
I only see thin people running, but they are not the ones who need to be running (Aunty, maybe the more you run, the thinner you get, so after a while, you only see thinner runners as they get fitter and leaner?) *she ignores my comment haha*

Fat people should run more. Fat people only sit down and eat eat eat but they should be the ones running. It is very bad. They only eat a lot.
(I think its a personal choice whether they want to exercise, but it would be better for their health if they did incorporate some exercise in!) *She ignores me again and continues*

Thin people don’t need to run. Fat people should be running more.
(*Polite laughter* Ok aunty, see you!)
*The traffic light turns green and lets me run away from her hurtful comments about fat people and their lack of exercise and their eating habits*

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Initially I was rather bemused by her tone, she seemed so sure of herself, and so condescending of fat people at the same time. But as she went on and on, I started to feel rather ashamed that people in society think this way. Have we become so judgemental that we judge people based on their size, before we even know anything about them?

I think the issue lies in the fact that we associate body size with health. Thin = healthy and fit. Fat = unhealthy and unfit. Just because some people may be of a larger size than others doesn’t mean that they don’t exercise at all or that they just eat eat eat. Yes indeed for some, they consciously choose to eat unhealthy food and not exercise. But there are others who are born with a larger bone structure or genetics that make it hard to lose weight. That doesn’t mean that they are unhealthy. I know people who are larger than me, but eat healthier than me! A person’s size alone does not reflect their health.
Thin people are not necessarily healthy either! Just because someone is thin, doesn’t mean they don’t need to exercise.

We all have the responsibility to care for our own bodies and our health. Fat-shaming or skinny-shaming (yes that exists too) doesn’t do anything but build up insecurities in people, and make them feel like they should change their bodies because they aren’t good enough for society to approve of.

Not thin enough.
Not curvy enough.
By societal standards we’ll never be good enough.

Well, I say: “Ditch those standards. Be your own standard.”

I have been told several times that I “don’t need to exercise cause (I’m) thin”. Honestly, that doesn’t make any sense to me. I exercise because I enjoy it. I enjoy being outdoors and being in touch with nature. I don’t exercise to lose weight or burn calories. I exercise to stay fit and to feel happy and to have fun. Granted, I did have a phase, like most people, where I exercised to lose weight. Cause isn’t that what exercise is for? It’s not something to love, it’s something to “burn calories”.

It makes me rather annoyed that exercise has been equated with weight loss and with looking good. What happened to exercising because you enjoy it? What happened to playing catching with friends and laughing your heads off instead of going for a run where you can clock in your distance on Nike+ to show off your fitness to the world?

Her little fat-phobic rant really got me thinking. And throughout my run, I was just thinking about why I exercise, and why people have come to judge people solely by their size and appearance.

Sure, we always say inner beauty counts. But it’s almost human nature to judge a person based on your first impression of them, which is usually what you see. Ultimately long term friendships come from getting to know the person better, and that’s when the inner beauty bit comes in. But be honest, aren’t you guilty of judging someone based on what he/she looks like?

We look like real men and women. And that’s something to be proud of.

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We are all unique and beautiful in our own ways, and I think that’s awesome.

Confidence comes from loving who you are, not from your grades or achievements or what people think of you.

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Not all men are tall. Not all men have abs. Not all men are the “perfect guy” that women are going for.

Well, not all women are the “perfect woman” that guys imagine their wives to be either. We don’t have curves in all the right places, we may not have luscious hair or whatever else you’d like us to have on the surface.

But inside, we have a heart… we have feelings too. We are perfectly and imperfectly human. We all need love and to be loved. Not just love from others and for others, but love from within and for ourselves.

I felt so ashamed to think that this small old lady would feel so much resentment towards larger-sized people. We were all born in different shapes and sizes and I think we should embrace that.

Not by going all out and eating fast food everyday, but by embracing what you’ve been blessed with by eating well and nourishing your physical and mental wellness. Eat healthily, engage in exercise that you enjoy and treat yourself to dessert if it makes you happy!

I love ice cream and I’ll gladly eat it everyday. But I love fruits and yogurt too, and that’s fine. I like to swim and run, but some days I’ll gladly just do some stretching or yoga, or just lie on my bed for the whole day watching a movie.

It’s about finding balance, and I think, after 20 years, I’ve found it.

It’s not about eating clean and training mean all the time, but doing what you enjoy. You don’t need abs… it’s far better for your soul to have that slice of cake than if you wish you did, but decided not to cause “a moment on the lips, forever on the hips”.

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Gosh, who comes up with those quotes. They just make people associate food with guilt. We should have happier quotes like:

“Eating makes me happy. So there.”
“Balance is an apple in one hand and a cookie in the other”
“Beauty doesn’t have a weight limit”

As I ran along my route, I felt so rejuvenated. I haven’t felt so liberated in ages. It was as if I was running away from all my past insecurities and self-doubt, and just embracing who I was.

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God was looking down on me, and He blessed me (and everyone of course) with the stunning view of the sunset as I was running my last lap. The sky was absolutely breathtaking, with pink and purple hues and the tall trees silhouetted against the skies. You really do find beauty when you least expect it.

Even better? It started raining.

There is nothing more calming than running in the rain.

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As I ran in the rain, soaking in the beauty of the sunset, I couldn’t help but feel as if I knew the answer to her question.

So…Why am I running?

For moments like this. For moments where I feel so connected to nature, and so at peace with myself. For moments where I can escape from the world and just be. For moments where I’m truly living.

I exercise to be happy, to connect with my inner self, and just to have fun.

I don’t need validation to exercise or to eat, and you don’t either. It’s about doing what makes you happy and nourishes your mind, body and soul.

I never would have expected such a long post to be inspired by that old lady. But I’m glad for our short conversation which really got me thinking.

And in my opinion, given our busy schedules…

It wouldn’t hurt to think a little more, and do a little less.

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4 thoughts on ““Why are you running?”

  1. Love this. I took a break from intensive running because I was emotionally burning myself with expectations. I am not he number of miles I run nor am I the number on the scale.

    I hope to develop a healthier relationship with running and run a half marathon someday.

    1. Hi Linda!

      Glad to hear that you enjoyed the post 🙂 Yes we are definitely not defined by number, not how far or how fast we can run, but only by our happiness and health.

      All the best in running a half-marathon! That’s my goal too 🙂

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