Thursday, May 30, 2013

A half marathon PR

Well, hello new friends! I was honored to be featured on Runs for Cookies on Monday as part of Katie's Motivational Monday series, and it looks like a lot of you visited! Make sure you check out these posts to get a better sense of who I am and how I lost the weight (to be honest, it was more of a byproduct of using exercise and healthy eating to become the happiest version of myself I could be):

About me
How I lost the weight
My experience with disordered eating
What I eat now

If you follow me on social media at all (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter), you know that Sunday was a big day for me! As part of my Running for Miss Virginia self-challenge, I completed the Alexandria Half Marathon. It was my first half marathon since I ran the Charlottesville Half last April, and my training since has consisted of two marathons and generally averaging about 10-15 miles a week.

Not optimal half training, if we're being fair.

I woke up on Sunday feeling pretty good and setting a goal of finishing in under 2:10. My previous fastest recorded half marathon time was 2:20:10, and that was during the Marine Corps Marathon last year, not even a legitimate half marathon. Anyways, I thought 2:10 was a pretty lofty goal, but fit pretty well with my "not fast, not last" running motto.
Ready to go
 My plan was to bank time early on, and then not feel bad if I needed to slow down a little later on. I wanted to run the whole thing, but given my "training" program, didn't know if that was a realistic expectation. I finished the first mile in 9:17 and patted myself on the back for not going out too fast. But then the most bizarre thing happened: I got faster.

And faster.

And then, my pace evened out at 8:57 minutes per mile, which my Nike+ app cheerfully informed me of each mile from 6-12.

I saw my dad during mile 12 with our dog, Rusty, and he yelled out that I was going to finish sub 2:00. I yelled back not to jinx it, but knew he was right: it was in the middle of mile 12, and I felt great.
Mile 6: Shouting out that I'm averaging 8:57

My official time was 1:58:17, but the course was long (13.27 miles), and Nike+ clocked me in at 1:57:05 -- a 23 minute PR. I placed 144 out of 546 females.

Celebrating with the pup!

I love running because it's full of unexpected accomplishments. Every run is an opportunity to surprise yourself, and it's safe to say that this half was pretty darn surprising. I've got a 15k this weekend, and the Baltimore 10-miler in three weeks, and am honestly looking forward to setting time goals, something I never thought I'd be doing.

I ran my first half marathon in January 2011, and finished in over 2:48. It's pretty incredible how I've changed as a runner and as a person since then, and just goes to show you: you can accomplish anything you want to, given enough time, energy, and effort.

What's your biggest running accomplishment thus far? What's something you'd like to accomplish?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

On food guilt

We've all seen ads like this one:

As someone who has dealt with binge eating before, I know what it feels like to feel guilty after eating certain foods. Granted, it's probably a little bit different when you've just eaten half a pizza or a large bag of M&M's in one sitting (throwback to senior year of college), but I think at one point or another, all of us have experienced guilt after eating something we "shouldn't have."

Diets can do that to you because they create a mindset of deprivation. Your list isn't of what you can eat, it's of what you can't eat. Carbs. Bread. Candy. Fried food. Pizza. When you're operating under the dieting mindset, it's totally normal that you're going to experience guilt when you "lose your willpower" or "cheat."

But, you guys, can we stop it? Please? Because the reality is, you make a lot of food choices every day: what time will you eat breakfast, what will you eat for breakfast, how much will you eat? Do you want to add condiments to your sandwich or sugar to your coffee? Making those choices, which you're pretty much going to have to make every day, shouldn't be stressing you out more than the real decisions you have to make in regards to your family, your job, or your friends.

You know what feeling guilty does to you? It makes you stressed out. It makes you emotional. And, if you're like 22-year-old-Jen-who-secretly-binge-ate, it probably makes you continue to make "bad" food choices.

The fact of the matter is, if you're making healthy choices 80% of the time, the other 20% isn't going to impact you. And, you're going to be motivated by how making healthier choices makes you feel. By adding more nourishing foods to your life, you're going to find yourself not craving the not so nourishing foods a whole lot less.

Diets don't work. They don't work because you cannot constantly live in a deprivation mindset. It's negative, it's counterproductive, and, gosh darnit, it's going to drive you crazy. Instead, take some advice from one of my favorite food documentaries, Hungry for Change, and focus on what you can add. More greens? More bananas? A smoothie full of fruits and veggies in the morning? Each of those things is going to make you feel great, and may even curb some of your cravings.

But if you want cookies or ice cream or pizza, eat it, and don't feel guilty about it. You're not "cheating" on a diet, you're making one of a hundred food choices you're going to make in a week as part of your healthy lifestyle. That's it.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Why you should run community races

On Saturday morning, I ran my third race of my #runningformissvirginia tour -- the Falcon 5k sponsored by the Flint Hill Elementary School PTA. While I was enjoying my race on Saturday, I was thinking about a fun way to blog about it (obviously). I thought a top four list might be fun -- both as a recap and as a way to inspire you to find a 5k out in your community to run.

When I say community race, I mean one that's sponsored by a small community organization - a church, a school, even a local animal shelter. It's probably the only one of its kind, and you're probably running with maybe 500 people max. You might not even get a t-shirt (I registered late and didn't get one until after the race today), but you will definitely have a good time.

The Top Four Reasons to Run a Community Race
  1. You'll be running with people who are truly passionate about the cause you're running for. With smaller races, the advertising is typically local outreach or grassroots advertising by the people who work with the organization. This means that you are surrounded by people who care a lot about whatever you're running for. That passion is contagious, and it makes the run a lot more fun. Today, for example, I ran with about 300 elementary school students and their parents, and the money benefited those kids. I was able to focus more on high fiving the kids as they passed me (and stopping at the stand manned by a couple students labeled "Free Water") and less on trying to PR.
  2. You can feel good knowing that most of your race fee is going to the title cause. Because there are fewer bells and whistles, more of your money is going to the cause, and less to putting on a show of a race. Don't get me wrong, I love the "show of a race"s too, but it is nice knowing that a large chunk of my money going to something important.
  3. What you don't get in pre-race swag, you might get in post-race swag. Smaller races mean you have a better shot at placing, at least in your age division. Today, I won my age group. I have only placed in my division twice before, and I have run a lot of 5ks. If you want to feel totally awesome and you're in your 20s, go run a 5k benefiting an elementary school... turns out these are not hot spots for people our age :)
    That 1/1 is the real deal!!
  4. There's a lot of cute and inspiring personalized things. Things like: chalk messages cheering you on on the road, spectators out clapping, even your name being read out at the finish line. These are small things, but they're really only possible at smaller races.
    Loved the chalk messages! Lots of personalized messages for all of the classes too!
Thanks for a great run, Flint Hill Elementary! I will certainly be back and running again next year :) 
Thanks to my mom for being my awesome supported and capturing cool finish line shots that make me look way faster than I am.

Friday, May 3, 2013

GMU Positive Body Image Seminar

This is what I felt like on Thursday night, around 11pm:

On Tuesday, I had the awesome opportunity to be the featured speaker at a Positive Body Image Seminar, hosted by George Mason University's Panhellenic. I had reached out to the Executive Board, and specifically Emily, their Vice President of Programming earlier this year, and Emily put together this awesome event. I spoke and others set up booths for women to visit. Nearly 500 women attended, and we had an hour and a half long conversation about positive (and negative) body image, disordered eating, and dieting.

I was inspired by the courage of women who shared their own stories, and I found strength in the reception I got from sharing my story. The questions at the end were thoughtful, and I loved how engaged everyone was using Twitter -- I opened up my Twitter to questions and comments throughout the event because, let's face it, if people are on their smart phones for any other reason but to tweet at me, I'm not doing my job.

A few people approached me at the end of the night with some feedback, and I thought it was really outstanding, so I don't want to wait until the next time I speak to share a few more pieces of information:
  •  First, I was approached by Corey, who asked me to focus more on eating healthier in order to be happier. She's so right, and I can't believe I failed to make this statement during my presentation. Exercising and choosing to eat healthy foods -- to eat more fruits and vegetables, add in more lean protein and whole grains, even to enjoy the occasional cookie -- makes you a happier person. You're happier because you feel better when you treat your body right. I talk a lot about how dieting makes you unhappy because it's a constant mindset of deprivation, but I failed to mention that "anti-dieting" -- that is, adopting a healthy food philosophy rather than a list of things you can't eat -- will make you both happier and healthier.
  • Next, one of the campus nutritionists spoke to me, and asked that I add in more information about the mental implications of eating disorders. If you are or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder, please seek professional help. Eating disorders are the most fatal mental illnesses, with some studies reporting that nearly 30% result in death. If nothing else, please point them in the direction of, which has a live anonymous helpline.
  • Lastly, I spoke with Kathleen, who works with the "Perfect Body Project." They are working to organize "No Makeup Monday," which I'll post more about this weekend. You should participate, though, by wearing -- you guessed it -- no makeup on Monday. Take a picture of yourself and post it to Instagram or Twitter using the hashtag #nomakeupmonday.
Again, a huge thank you to GMU Panhellenic for a very inspiring night, as well as your extremely generous donation to Children's Miracle Network. It was an honor to speak with all of you, and I know CMN will be so appreciative :)

If you are interested in having me speak at an event, please email me at