Listen to the Ali on the Run Show!
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Only you can determine your self-worth.
Go with me on this one, OK? It’s about to get a little heavy up in here. (We’re taking a slight break from the running talk because, um, I haven’t really been doing much of it.)
At the kickoff to 2013, I declared my lofty New Year’s Resolutions. I’m going to do a fishtail braid! I will use a crock pot! I will not get hit by a car and dang it, I will get back on my bike before 2014.
Perhaps the loftiest of all the goals was to spend less time online and to revise the list of blogs I read and people I follow on Twitter.
I know that sounds dumb. How is that a tough goal and why is it even something to “strive” for?
I’ll tell you.
I started reading blogs back in 2010. I found some healthy living blogs and eventually discovered more tailored-to-my-liking running blogs. I didn’t always identify myself as a runner, but I certainly never identified myself as a “healthy liver.” I was intrigued, though. I was also in a crappy relationship and I think I need some sort of outlet — some connection to people I might have something in common with.
I learned a lot from the blogs I read in those early days (and the ones I still read now, of course). I learned about exercise, I learned about food and I learned about what I did and did not want my own blog to be like once I started it up. In the true spirit of the cliche, by reading a bunch of these blogs, I found motivation and inspiration. And a lot of cute dogs.
Eventually, though, I got a little smarter. My mind expanded a bit more and I crawled out of the healthy living blog bubble I’d found myself caught up in. I diversified what I read, adding some great blogs, both by individuals and ones affiliated with print publications, along the way.
But I never filtered out the early blogs. I kept them in my Google Reader and I kept following them on Twitter, even though what they were posting about didn’t really interest me.
It’s nothing against those bloggers — they’re free to write whatever they want.
I am a huge advocate for reader responsibility. It’s something I preach (in my head, at least) but wasn’t something I practiced. Until now.
It wasn’t until recently that I realized what a negative effect many of these blogs — and some of the people or companies I follow on Twitter or Facebook — were having on me.
For a while, as I mentioned in that New Year’s Eve post, I would innocently “hate read” (ick, such an ugly and nasty term). I’d read a post, shake my head and then move on. No harm done, right? I didn’t leave cruel comments and I didn’t spend more than 2.3 minutes thinking about the post. But at some point, it became more than that. At some point, I got really angry about what people were posting — and I got angry about the comments, too. Posts about extreme exercise or teeny tiny portions of food were followed by dozens of comments about how “inspirational” that workout was, or how “delicious!” that “snack plate” for dinner looked.
I always thought I worked out a normal amount — I’d run in the morning or go to a spin class at night and I took plenty of days off. Once I started reading these blogs, though, “normal” took on a new meaning. “Normal” was a minimum of twice-daily workouts. They were all doing it, so I started doing it, too. I was like the poster child for that saying about how if everyone else decided to jump off a bridge, I’d be right there with them, jumping and thinking carbs were bad.
And it never seemed wrong, because all the while I was having fun. I was losing weight (still working off that post-college stuff, you know?), trying new things and probably burning a ton of calories, though I never kept track. I never felt like I was trying to “keep up” with the internet sensations — I never thought there was anything wrong with what these people were doing, especially since many, eventually myself included, were training for big distance races.
Soon, I found myself working out more days than I wasn’t, and usually embarking on my own two-a-days. You know — you’ve been here to read about it. I’d run in the morning, work a full day at the office and then hit up a strength or spin class at the gym at night. I loved it, honestly. And everyone was doing it. We were all bridge jumping in our spandex.
Even once I started training for the Hamptons Marathon, I never lost my desire to do group fitness classes. I kept “doing it all,” because it was fun.
I will never attempt to diagnose someone I don’t know — or even someone I do know — with an eating or exercise-related disorder. In the past I’ve had people I’ve never met tell me I was over-exercising or under-eating (uh, really?). Kind of crazy, right, since I don’t post my daily workout regimens or what I eat? But we all judge a little bit. I hate when people do it to me, of course, but I was doing it to other people based simply on what they were writing online. I can’t decide if someone is working out too much or eating too little. But I can decide how to react to it, and I can decide whether or not to have that present in my life.
One of my great lessons of 2012, right? “You can’t control what happens, but you can control how you react to it.”
And I feel like I’ve seen both sides of the spectrum now.
So this week, after reading a post about how brownies are bad, I knew I needed to make a change. Other people can write about whatever they want and plenty of people will be there to relate to it. That’s the beautiful thing about the internet — you can usually find at least one person to agree with you, even if so many others think you’re nuts.
I’m so happy to be able to cross “Drastically revise my Google Reader and Twitter lists” off my New Year’s Resolutions list. It feels good.
The nutritionists are gone from Twitter. They offer plenty of great advice, but they also make me feel badly when they’re preaching about green juice and I’m kicking my feet up with a bowl of ice cream (with crumbled Oreos on top, obviously) and a glass (or four) of wine. Major buzzkill, man.
I had to get rid of many “healthy living blogs,” too. Not because the writers are bad people — they’re not. They’re lovely young women. But their posts weren’t making me feel good about myself and some of them had simply changed direction or had babies, and that’s not something I’m interested in (though, hooray and congratulations, new moms!). Some of them make me feel like I’m overeating, under-exercising and practically binge eating when I’m not satisfied with a square of dark chocolate for dessert. I used to read a lot of these blogs hoping for meal ideas, but with your help (thank you again, sweet people) I’ve rediscovered some great food blogs and recipe sites, so I’ll be set there for a while.
I know I shouldn’t compare myself to other bloggers and internet folks, many of whom I’ve never met in real life. It’s hard not to sometimes, though. I think, for me at least, it takes a lot of discipline to be able to learn what your own body can and cannot handle with regards to meals and workouts, among other things. What works so successfully for one person and yields PR after PR may not work at all for me. I remind myself of that often. Our bodies are all different — and so are our lives.
Although I’ve kept most of the running blogs in my rotation, I had to scrap a few or at least resolve to only read them sparingly. There’s nothing wrong with a little “Mark All As Read” every now and then.
I was reading a lot of stuff from people who are amazingly talented runners, but they don’t work fulltime. I would wonder why they were improving so much while I wasn’t. But then I’d remember my job: My job that prevents me from having ample recovery time and doesn’t allow me to train the way I’d like. But it’s my job that I love, and I don’t think my hobby jogging is reason to quit it.
I thought I was good at not getting caught up in the oft-addressed comparison trap. But maybe I’m not. So for me, the answer is going cold turkey. Cutting off the blogs and media outlets that are serving me ill more than well.
It’s not my place to say that I think someone is crazy for chasing a 20-mile run with a spin class and hot yoga (seen it). But it is my responsibility to say to myself that following that person makes me feel like shit. What she’s doing may be detrimental to her health or it may be great for it. I don’t know. Just because we read about someone’s daily life on the internet does not mean we actually know them (write that down). But I do know that witnessing certain behaviors isn’t good for me. I can’t blame that girl for posting about her activities — I do the same thing. I can blame myself, though, if I keep reading and letting myself be negatively affected. Blogger responsibility is an important topic, but so is reader responsibility.
Conversely, I would hate to think that people are here reading this blog and being negatively affected by it. I love you, but please, step away if this blog is bad for you. If the way I’m living my life isn’t positively helping the way you live yours, there’s no need to stick around. I’ll miss you, but take care of yourself.
As I wrote above: Only you can determine your self-worth. Don’t let anyone else make you feel badly about yourself or like you’re not good enough. You’re being the best you that you can be today, so just keep doing that. People always say, “No one is better at being you than you are,” and it’s cheesy, but hey, I love cheese. Emotional cheese, gouda cheese, it’s all good cheese.
So I’ll be me and you be you and everyone is happy, yeah?
To wrap this up, I want to highlight a few bloggers and Tweeters I’ve really been enjoying lately. These people make me feel awesome, and for that I’m so grateful. So I’d like to spread the love…
- @enthusiasticrun: Jocelyn is constantly sharing great links, news stories and other worthy bits of information.
- @emmarosenblum: Emma Rosenblum is a hilarious writer and she gets bonus points for always being funny in 140 characters or fewer.
- @lizheisler: Liz Heisler is so funny. I especially recommend following her when she’s in the midst of a “Dawson’s Creek”-watching marathon. That’s when she tends to peak.
- @sarawinsor: So funny. So clever. So many wicked funny photos of her cracked-out dog.
- @runbeyonddreams: Deanna is a mega-inspiring runner. She’s fast yet humble. Basically my dream woman, except that she recently got engaged. Missed my shot, dang it.
Blogs I’m Digging:
- Health on the Run: Lauren is one of my favorite people in this world. She makes me want to be a better person, a better writer and a better runner. Every time she posts, I can’t even bring myself to comment because she already wrote everything so poignantly. What more is there to say? Nothing. (Here’s a recent example of a post I really loved.)
- Twenty-Six and Then Some: Last year, Page trained her butt off for an Ironman — and right before the big day, she injured her ankle and couldn’t compete. It broke my heart, but she’s recovered and back at it. I can’t wait for Page to crush an Ironman in 2013 so I can creepy-cheer from afar.
- Rate Your Burn: This site is filled with reviews of NYC (and other area, but the New York ones obviously pertain to me most) fitness classes, studios and instructors. I’m obsessed. I never take a class now without scouring the reviews. Also, this post made me laugh uncontrollably at my desk one day at work.
- Lindsay Runs: Again, I’m biased because Lindsay is a good friend of mine. She doesn’t post as often as I’d like, but Lindsay is a crazy-fast runner with an insanely wise head on her shoulders. When something hurts, Lindsay rests. When something looks delicious, Lindsay eats it. I love that she’s a completely normal 20-whatever-year-old and that even though she’s gunning for a sub-3:00 marathon, I can still relate to her.
- Greatist: This site is a wonderful resource for all things health, wellness and fitness. My favorite posts are the recipe ones (this one is all about crock pot cooking!) and the ones with charts and visual things.
- The Hungry Runner Girl: I don’t know anyone who doesn’t read Janae’s blog. It used to be cute, and then Janae went and had a spiky-haired little baby and things got even better. She’s just as sweet-as-chocolate-cupcakes in real life and everything she writes about Brooke makes me laugh. Plus, um, her husband is hot. Sorry…but true.
- RoseRunner: RR isn’t afraid to write whatever she wants and I respect that — especially since I don’t always agree with her. Sometimes I’m like, “High five girl, totally on board,” and other times I’m like, “Whoa, I can’t believe she went there…” Whether or not I agree with her, RR’s smart and snappy posts always give me something to think about.
- LV Runs NYC: Lora is a runner in NYC and she is dead-set on nabbing a BQ at this year’s Eugene Marathon. I’m excited to be following her [what seems to be very level-headed and gutsy] training in pursuit. Get it, Lora!
That’s it. Take good care.