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December 07, 2016

Fierce Flyer - Natalie Fixler

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Hello, my name is Natalie, and I am a binge eater. It took me many years to realize this about myself; that I had an eating disorder, and more importantly, that I had an unhealthy obsession with my weight. I truly believed that if I was thin, I would be confident, happy and accepted by everyone. I didn’t recognize when I was younger that there was more to me as a person than my weight or my appearance. I realize this sounds shallow, but at the time, my utter lack of self confidence was the crippling factor in how I interacted with people. I don’t believe my lack of confidence came from binge eating, or that my binge eating was a result of my lack of confidence. It was more like a cycle. I ate because I was unhappy, I was unhappy because I was fat, I was fat because I ate because it made me feel better about being unhappy.

When I was 25 years old, I weighed 289 pounds. I wanted more for myself, but I did not believe I could achieve better, or even deserved it. I had a breaking point though, but it was not an enlightening moment where it dawned on me how heavy I had actually become; it was when I left my husband. I moved out, took on a second job, and was so busy that I did not have time to obsess over my next meal or even how I looked. I lost thirty pounds quickly. Intrigued, I began a food journal, and I began to research nutrition. I started to understand how I had gained so much weight.

I remember the power I felt over my life the first time I stopped eating when I was full, or even when I ate because I was actually hungry, and not because there were two bags of chips and cookies laying around. Eating was how I tried to control my life; not continuing to eat was how I gained control of my life. Years of heartbreak and obsession slowly dissolved and life opened up to other possibilities. If I could overcome the way I looked at food and the way I saw myself, what else could I achieve for myself?

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I had a dark secret, I wanted to be an athlete, and at my lowest point, I didn’t believe that was something I could ever be. When I was in high school, I ran a season of cross country. It was the first and only sport I ever participated in. I usually placed dead last at all the meets, and whether it was true or not, I felt like the team did not want me there. I didn’t return for the next season. After conquering my food and weight demons, I attacked my confidence demons. Age 29 became my new cross country season.

My journey in better health started with self love, a nutrition plan, weight lifting and journaling. I stopped focusing on what I wasn’t, and instead decided on who I wanted to be. I wanted to be someone who got up early and worked out, someone who could run ten+ miles, someone that could achieve the things they set their heart to and weigh less than what they put on their driver’s license. In that time my husband and I reconciled, it’s amazing how open you are to loving someone else when you actually like yourself!

It did take some time before I finally gained the courage to really try running again though. I was afraid. I had failed at running before, not because I didn’t try, but because I didn’t believe in myself then. Feeling determined one afternoon I bought a pair of neon blue Asics, I felt fierce with them on. That night I told my husband I was going to start running. He didn’t believe me. Not because he didn’t support me, but because I had never really followed through on anything I wanted for myself before. The next morning I went out to pound the pavement.

The first thing I learned about running was that it was hard. The second thing I learned about running was nothing feels more gratifying than the first time you run a mile without stopping. The third thing I learned about running was the first mile of a seven mile run sucks, every time, but then you conquer it and you’re a complete badass because you’re accomplishing the goals that you set for yourself. The fourth thing I learned about running is that your coworkers do not necessarily want to talk about your negative splits or your supportive shoes, and telling them: “I ran 12 miles this weekend” kind of sounds pretentious. The most important thing I learned from running was how much I actually love myself. I wanted to be a runner, and it took hours of running/walking, feeling victorious, feeling insanely sore, feeling beaten and triumphant at the same time before I finally felt like I earned that title.

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When I started running as an adult, I had a moment where I realized that to propel my 200 pound body (now 170!!!!) for any distance, at any speed I had to continue to love myself, and I had to have mental toughness. The doubt I sprinkled over everything in my life needed to be silenced and replaced. “You are a warrior, you are strong.” My favorite mantra came when I felt proud of myself for the first time ever. Now, when I am on a tough run, I tell myself “I am so proud of you, you just did that, you didn’t give up on yourself.” 

This new strength carried over to other aspects of my life, and I changed from a dreamer to someone who forged and earned their own path. I ran my first 5k as an adult last October. My goal was to run it in under 45 minutes. I crushed that goal and ran it in 39:10:15. I placed third in my age group. I remember it being so hard to show up at that race, I was terrified, I felt like I didn’t belong. I had to remind myself that thought process never helped me move forward before, and it was not going to help me at that race. It never occurred to me that I could be competitive, and that I would enjoy it. I signed up for three more races after that.

Racing taught me that I had the potential to really break the mold I had created for myself, and it helped me crush my confidence demons. It also showed me that the person who shows up on race day is the version of me I like the most. In October of 2015 I ran that first 5k. October 2016 I ran my first half marathon, I want to run a full marathon in 2018. I basically want to run until someone has to peel me off the sidewalk…as long as they pause my Garmin first. Racing and competition lit a new fiery confidence in me that I had never experienced before. During the summer, while feeling nervous and daring, I put my name on the waitlist for Oiselle. I was ready to join a team again, as a strong, confident, 30 year old woman who decided that she wanted to be a part of something bigger than herself. When I got the email that Volée had opened, I said goodbye to my self doubt and fear and went for it. And I cannot wait to rock my singlet at my next race in January, because I have never been more proud of myself and am so excited to be a part of a group of strong, courageous women that kick serious ass.

Hello, my name is Natalie, and I am a lot of things. But mostly, I am strong.

- Natalie Fixler    

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