Tag Archives: doctor

See Fatty Run, Can Fat People Run Safely?

halfinish2I am frequently asked both on Facebook and in the Fit Fatties Forum, “I am fat.  Is it still safe for me to run?”  So I thought I’d take up this question in today’s blog post.

The short answer is that most people, given proper form, equipment, time and training can learn to jog or run safely, but not all.  There is little evidence that it is inherently unsafe for people of size to jog or run.  Plenty of fluffy folks finish 5K, 10K, half-marathon and marathon races every day.  There is little to no evidence that running causes pain or loss of cartilage in the knees–no matter what your size.  However, if you already have problems in knees, hips, ankles, back or feet, you should proceed with extreme caution as running can make these problems a lot worse.

BadKnees

If you have “bad knees” you should get cleared by a doctor before you start running.

Frankly, fat folk should approach running in the same way that thin people do.  You should probably start by being checked out by your doctor.  If you are coping with joint pain or back pain of any sort, you should probably also see a joint or sports medicine specialist and get cleared for exercise before you begin.  Once you get the all clear from your doctor(s), then it’s time to gear up.  Start by getting yourself a great pair of shoes.  The best way to find those great shoes is to go to a running store, and get fitted by a professional.  This is not the time to choose shoes because they are your favorite color or because they are on sale.  Good shoes that fit properly and meet the special needs of your particular tootsies are critical for safe walking and running.

Choose function over fashion for your fitness footwear.

Choose function over fashion for your fitness footwear.

Once you’ve got the all-clear and are geared up, you need to start SLOWLY.  I cannot emphasize this enough.  If you are not already walking regularly, you should start with a walking program.  There are lots of different schools of thought about how to move from walking to running.  I am personally very partial to Jeff Galloway’s Run Walk Run approach.  I started by walking 10 minutes and running for 30 seconds.  I ran from telephone pole to telephone pole.  I eventually trained to the point I could do a marathon.  I know lots of people who have safely used this approach.  Going all out each workout as hard and as fast as you can is not noble.  It is not bad-assed.  It is a recipe for disaster.  There’s nothing particularly noteworthy about having to quit your running program after 4 days because you hurt yourself.

Once you’ve been running for a while, it is also important to PROCEED SLOWLY.  Most sports programs recommend that you ramp no more than 10 percent per week.  That means if you are running one mile per session this week, you can run 1.1 miles per session next week.  Note that this progression is much, MUCH slower than many of the published and printed running programs out there.  While many of the programs that train you for your first 5K or marathon are great, I find that many bodies are simply not designed to ramp up that quickly.  That’s why I took my first marathon program, cut it in half, and trained for a half marathon instead.  That’s why, when I do 5K or 10 K training programs now, I tend to spend two or even three weeks at each level before I move on.  If you’re doing a total of 3 miles of training this week, it’s probably not cool to do 6 miles of training next week.  It might work for you.  It might leave you a total wreak.  Learn to learn from and listen to YOUR body.

There are lots of other things you can do to help keep yourself safe.  Make sure you stretch.  Do a proper warm up.  Add cross training to give some of your running muscles a break.  Add strength training to build up the muscles and ligaments around your joints and help to stabilize them.  Make sure to work on your form.  Proper running form–including how and where you place your feet, stride, and even arm placement, are very important.  Running is a repetitive motion.  Very small problems in your form can lead to very big pain down the road.

Be sure to address back and other joint pains early and often.

When it comes to running, pain is a very important teacher.  Some people can run without experiencing any significant pain.  For some people, pain happens a whole lot.  In any case, pain is not to be ignored.  It can tell you when you need to adjust your form.  It can tell you when you need to add more cross training or strength training.  It can tell you that the purple tennis shoes you bought because they were on sale were a bad idea.  It can tell you that you need to stop running for a while so you can address a problem in your back or your joints.  It can tell you that running just isn’t for you right now.  DO NOT IGNORE PAIN.  Listen to it.  Learn from it.

Happy trails to you!

Happy trails to you!

So can fatties run?  Can running be safe and enjoyable for people of size?  Of course!  People of all sizes simply need to approach running with caution, gear up, start slowly, ramp slowly, and listen carefully to their bodies.  Here’s wishing you happy trails!

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. Want to learn more about exercise at every size and GET FREE STUFF?  Don’t forget to join my list right here.

Advertisements

Teenage Boy “Diagnosed Fat”–Infection Missed

chart2How many times have we heard this same story?  A vibrant, active young man goes to the doctor, in this case, with knee pain.  The doctor does a routine test and doesn’t see a problem.  The doctor does see a young man who fits into an “undesirable” segment of the BMI chart.  The solution, the young man is diagnosed as fat, is told that his “extra weight” is probably causing the pain in his knee and sent home.  Now Kaleb is an active kid.  He plays rugby, and he loves to sail.  But once the doctor sees Kaleb’s place on the BMI scale, he just might think something like this: “Aha!  I don’t have to say that I don’t know what’s wrong with this kid’s knee.  I can write obesity in the kid’s chart and then we have a diagnosis!”

Unfortunately, in Kaleb’s case there was another diagnosis besides “fat” to be found.  A short while later, he was taken to the hospital via ambulance after he fell down some steps.  At that point, he was referred to a specialist that he saw two weeks later.  The specialist ordered an MRI and during the scan they found a serious bone infection.  Kaleb was scheduled for emergency surgery the same night.  He is recovering well.  So thankfully, the story has a happy ending.

But how much pain could have been avoided without the “fat diagnosis”? It appears that had this infection been detected earlier, it could have been treated with antibiotics rather than emergency surgery.  Now there’s no guarantee that had Kaleb been thin, they would have found the infection sooner.  They might have still sent him home and told him to take some aspirin and take it easy.  Thin people are misdiagnosed too.  But I’ve heard time and time again about people who are “diagnosed fat” and sent home.  Remember this guy who was diagnosed fat, and it turned out to be a brain tumor?  Remember his emergency surgery?  I wonder if doctors, frustrated by a lack of diagnosis and discouraged from ordering expensive tests don’t lean on the BMI chart as a way to have something to write in their diagnosis box.  I imagine in many cases, once patients are “diagnosed fat” and are shamed and blamed, they stop asking annoying questions.  They stop demanding that doctors figure out what is wrong with them.  In some cases, they stop going to the doctor altogether.  This is part of the collateral damage and opportunity costs in the “war on obesity”.  This is another example of the casualties that arise from singling out a body type as unacceptable and trying to eradicate it.

And we’re not just dealing with misdiagnosis here.  We’re dealing with fat people suffering and dying from the mutilation of otherwise healthy tissue via gastric bypass and banding surgeries.  We are seeing the development of more and more new strategies for trying to make fat people “healthy” by making their digestive systems mimic eating disorders and limited blood flow to the gut.  We are so focused on helping fat people get healthy by making them thin that we are willing to make them really, really sick to help them get there.  And sadly, in so many cases, the fat people who undergo these treatments end up fatter or sicker or less happy than they were in the first place.

There are weapons we can use in this war.  One of them is to ask the doctor if thin people also experience the same problem.  In Kaleb’s case, he or his mom might have asked, “Do thin people also have knee pain?  What tests might you do if I were thin.  Can we do those tests please?”

Another weapon is to help make doctors and other medical professionals more aware of the pain and repercussions of fat bias.  And it just so happens that we have some terrific tools to do that.  The Association for Size Diversity And Health (ASDAH) along with the Size Diversity Task Force are compiling videos about fat bias in healthcare.  The project is called RESOLVED.  Some folks at ASDAH have informed me that the deadlines are being extended.  You can hear more about the project and see my sample video HERE.  In addition, the Size Diversity Task Force has a unique opportunity through one of our members to help train medical advocates about fat bias in healthcare.  But in order for your video to be used in both places, you need to submit your video by March 18.  If you’re interested in participating in the project and/or have any questions or concerns, please leave me a note in the comments below.  Or send me an email at jeanette at thefatchick dot com.  I’d be glad to help.

Let’s do what we can to limit the number of casualties in the war on fat.  Let’s help kids like Kaleb get the attention and care they need at the first doctor’s appointment–not the third.  Let’s see what we can do to have “diagnosed as fat” be a thing of the past!

Love,

The Fat Chick