Chantal’s Weight Loss Journey: a Bumpy Path to Becoming an Inspirational Marathon Runner | Resilience Stories Series

Author: Claire Gaudreau

This blog has been reviewed by Katya Santucci and Béa Schueller, edited by Rémi Thériault

Chantal

It’s not a secret; body image is a huge focus in the media. We are endlessly bombarded with ads that often leave us feeling less than satisfactory about our likeness. Perhaps you have even experienced comments about your figure from some rather bold individuals in your entourage. What can we do to protect ourselves from producing a negative self-view as a result of all this negative influence? Perhaps we might shift our focus to the recognition of our body’s performance rather than its attractiveness. Health is something commonly taken for granted; we often don’t realize what we have until it’s missing. What would happen to our body image if we hone in on its functional ability rather than how it looks?

Soulliard and colleagues (2019) suggest that exercise may be the key to improving our body image. Their study found that student athletes had higher levels of appreciation for their body and its functionality in comparison with their non-athlete peers. These students were preoccupied with how their body allowed them to practice their chosen sport and achieve success. There was also a positive relationship between confidence in their physical capability and flow state.

Exercise may be the key to improving our body image…

Photo credit: Bruno Nascimento

In positive psychology, a flow state is when you are completely immersed in an activity. Another way to put it is being ‘in the zone’. Being in a flow state increases your awareness of the present moment, and therefore, increases your connection with your body. This may also lead to a boost in confidence and self-esteem. Though there is no need to be an athlete to reap the benefits of flow! Self-respect and appreciation can come about through any activity that improves embodiment (awareness of bodily sensations) such as yoga, dance, or other physical activities.

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In this blog part of The Resilience Stories Series, we explore the story of Chantal as an example of someone who radically transformed her body image through physical activity to find flow and happiness.

The Resilience Stories Series feature inspirational stories about real people who have learned to overcome immense life challenges and continue to thrive. Discover which strategies worked for these individuals who became highly resilient.

Chantal’s Story

Finding confidence is a daunting task when those around you only seem to criticize you. No matter how hard you work, no matter how much time you put in, you may feel as though you always fall short. You may believe you are lazy, overweight, not good enough. You may not like the person you are becoming. Maybe you even feel as though your loved ones would be better off without you. These were, in fact, the thoughts that were running through Chantal’s mind.

Chantal is a mother who lives in the greater Montreal area. She has not had an easy upbringing, growing up in a home where her parents struggled to make ends meet. Her father’s passing left a gaping hole in her life and she sought to fill that gap with an older romantic partner. At some point, her husband at the time became physically and emotionally abusive.

Outside the home, her situation was not any better — her relationship with her boss was unfavourable, people on the street would mock her, some even threw food and spit on her. No need to say: things weren’t looking well. As her self-worth diminished, she sometimes responded with animosity, which did nothing to help her. To make matters worse, she was diagnosed with cancer. Her life was so difficult that she could not bear it anymore and attempted to take her own life.

Nonetheless, she had the strength to seek help from a social worker who encouraged her to make time for herself. Although Chantal began losing weight, her husband became even more abusive. The thinner she became, the more possessive and jealous he got. Seeking more alone time, she began to run. Running brought Chantal into a flow state that made her feel in tune with her body. With her confidence rising, she began to travel and run at the international level. The time spent away from her husband was invaluable and running became her escape.

If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint’ then by all means, paint, and that voice will be silenced’ — Vincent van Gogh

Chantal’s hard work paid off — she reached the top 10 in the Rock & Roll marathon series. In the hopes of inspiring at least one individual to improve their life, she shared her story publicly. She began running every single day, doing so in honour of others (e.g., a cancer patient) and holding them in her mind while sending them good vibes. Shocked at the positive response she received, it fueled a new outlook on life. In reaching out to the outside world, the outside world indeed reached out to her. She was making a difference. And she still is: Chantal now attends virtual runs worldwide with the support of a warm, welcoming community. Up to now, she has run a whopping 400–500 marathons all while raising funds for the Canadian Cancer Society. “I try to motivate and inspire people to stay active and healthy,” explains Chantal.

In reaching out to the outside world, the outside world indeed reached out to her.

Photo credit: Tim Mossholder

With the intention of continuing to help others, she created the non-profit organization Adopt a Family for Xmas. Humbly beginning with pre-owned toys given to families in need, over time, the organization expanded to include 100 volunteers. The donations improved from second-hand toys to brand new ones, bringing joy to families in various cities in Québec. She and her mother reserve the task of delivering donations as it brings them a unique and precious sense of connection. They understand and appreciate the gift of giving, having themselves been recipients of similar contributions in the past.

‘If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else’ — Booker T. Washington

Chantal used running as a tool to tap into her flow state. This allowed her to connect more deeply with herself and her needs. Her connection with herself in turn allowed her to unite with others. While recalling her journey can be painful, she does not let it define her. Instead, it has inspired her to develop emotional and physical resilience; transforming her self-image into a positive one.

Disclaimer

Resilience Stories Series is not intended as a replacement for psychological or medical treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms, please seek professional advice.

Questions? Comments?

Contact me, the author, at claireyogaresilience@gmail.com or check out my Facebook page for more on yoga and meditation: www.facebook.com/yogaresilience

If Chantal’s story has inspired you, or if you would be interested in learning more about Adopt a Family for Xmas, you can reach her at chantal.haigh@gmail.com.

Is there someone who overcame incredible adversity that inspires you? Let us know their story in the comments below. If you found this story helpful in any way, please take a moment to like, comment, or share with your friends. You never know who you might inspire!

Are you passionate about positive psychology? Consider joining the Canadian Positive Psychology Association (CPPA) Student Membership! https://www.cppa.ca/Student-Zone

If you or a member of your family have suicidal thoughts, are in distress or in mourning, you can call anytime at 1.833.456.4566 or consult this site: https://www.crisisservicescanada.ca/en/

References

Soulliard, Z. A., Kauffman, A. A., Fitterman-Harris, H. F., Perry, J. E., & Ross, M. J. (2019). Examining positive body image, sport confidence, flow state, and subjective performance among student athletes and non-athletes. Body Image, 28, 93–100. https://doi-org.lib-ezproxy.concordia.ca/10.1016/j.bodyim.2018.12.009

We are the Student Ambassador Program of the Canadian Positive Psychology Association (CPPA). Find our website here: https://www.cppa.ca/Student-Zone

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