DEAR FORMER FAT GIRL: I recently quit smoking so I could exercise more often. I want to run, but I’m too embarrassed because of the fat on my stomach and back. Any tips on getting over my workout phobia? — Carrie
DEAR CARRIE: Hurray for you for quitting smoking! It’s the very best thing you can do for your health, and regular exercise should help you kick the habit for good (cigarettes and running don’t mix well, as you might have already found out!). I understand your embarrassment about exercising when you’re not happy with your body. I felt the same way when I started running — it took me some time to get comfortable in regular running clothes. I wore sweats for the longest time, and tried to go to the track, where I first began running, when there was no one around. But I have realized that I, and many women who are overweight, are hyper-focused on our bodies in a way that others are not. The fact is that no one at the gym or track is as focused on you as you are. They’re most likely trying to get through their own workouts (yes, even the fittest of folks need motivation!). One thing I did (and still do) is think of myself as being invisible when I’m in the gym or running with other people. That helps me push those insecurities about what others might think about my body out of my mind, and allows me to focus on getting healthy and fit. Another thing that might be helpful if you run on a treadmill or work out in a gym: Choose a treadmill that doesn’t face a mirror. Watching yourself work out can be a big downer — research has shown that overweight folks who sweat in front of mirrors perceive their workouts as harder than they actually are and get more discouraged more quickly. You can also, if your schedule allows, hit the health club or running trail at off-hours. And there¨Ìs nothing wrong with wearing clothing that conceals your trouble spots — but know that there are great fitness fashion lines out there for plus-sized women that offer outfits that really fit and flatter. Brooks, Moving Comfort and Champion all have fashion-forward options for plus-sized runners and walkers. You might want to splurge on a great ensemble to boost your morale. A little retail therapy could keep you off the cigarettes and on the road to good health!