This badass runner is using her body to crush weight stigma and shut down fat shamers.

Runner Mirna Valerio is no stranger to people who stop and stare at her.

Passersby often do a double-take when they see Valerio, a fat, African-American woman, running around the small, mostly white and very rural Rabun County, Georgia.

But the stares don't faze her; Valerio is too focused on her goals, which she documents on her blog, Fat Girl Running, to care about haters.


"People do look, and they say things," Valerio told Upworthy. "But I know what I have to do, and whatever my goal is for the day, I know I need to get it done, and so I go do it."

Valerio after one of her dozens of races. Her enthusiasm for the sport of running is infectious. All photos via Mirna Valerio, used with permission.

In a foot race, Valerio could probably outrun most of us. Easily.

She's been running consistently since 2008 — completing multiple 5ks, 10ks, half marathons, marathons, ultramarathons — and is currently training for the pièce de résistance of her running career thus far: the Javelina Jundred, a 100k race (that's just over 62 miles, people! SIXTY! TWO! MILES!).

She also happens to be "clinically obese" at 240 pounds. But that label means nothing because whatever, it takes serious physical and mental strength to run 62 freaking miles. Sixty! Two! Miles! To put that in perspective, 62 miles is the same distance you'd have to travel up from Earth if you wanted to go to outer space. Valerio does not mess around.

Valerio in the mountain snow; weather is never an excuse to miss a run!

Valerio's story has gotten attention recently for breaking down the stigma around fat athletes.

Her story took off after she was included in a Wall Street Journal article that led to a 12-page spread in the August 2015 edition of Runner's World.

While the reaction from the running community has been mostly positive, there have been naysayers who refuse to believe that someone who looks like Valerio could possibly be a good role model.

But it's Valerio's inspirational devil-may-care attitude toward her critics and her messages of body love and fitness accessibility for every body type and shape that has empowered people to challenge the negative stereotypes surrounding higher weight people and fitness.

Valerio, in motion, doing what she loves.

“One of the major reasons people don't want to go to the gym is that people are saying 'Oh, you need to go work out,'" Valerio says, explaining the the anxiety and double standard fat people face when they try to participate in athletic activities. "You feel as if you need to lose fifty pounds before you can show yourself at the gym or show up at a race because people do look twice and people do wonder why you're there."

But it's all just background noise to Valerio, and to her, none of that nonsense matters.

She claims her body as it is and loves it and its ability to carry her for miles.

She's not interested in running to lose weight; she's a runner because she loves running. She loves the views from the top of a mountain trail. She loves spending time talking to her friends, mile after mile. She loves seeing what her body can accomplish.

In short: She's a seriously badass athlete.

Mountain mud? No problem. Time to take a "shoefie."

“Having run for a couple of years now, I know the physical condition that I'm in, and I know what I can do. I know that I can get over whatever kind of hump that it is because I've done it and I know how it feels to get over it, and I'm always looking for that feeling."

Runner's high, indeed.

Valerio preaches the gospel of body love and health wherever she goes.

While she's one of a rare few, amazing people who've managed to dodge the "body shame bullet" in her personal life, she also knows that it's a pretty powerful force (usually in the form of judgment and fat shaming from others) that stops people from getting outside and being active, even when it's something they love to do.

Her advice? Do what you need and want to do in a way that feels good for your body. "You've gotta know yourself and what you are and who you are," she says.

We don't all fit into a one-size-fits all mold when it comes to fitness and health, and that's cool.

She also hikes! Is there anything this woman can't do?

“I really want people to feel good about their bodies," Valerio encourages. "Your body is spectacular and can do so many things — and you don't know half of the stuff that it can do!"

If you aren't an aspiring road runner like Valerio, don't fret! There are numerous other ways to embrace your desire to be active; everything from Fat Yoga (or Curvy Yoga) to dancing like Whitney Thore of TLC's "My Big Fat Fabulous Life" to body positive swimming and any other ways to move that you can imagine. There are so many options, but what's important is that you find something that you enjoy doing and that feels good for your body, whatever shape or size it may be.

Find what you love and do you!

True

Anne Hebert, a marketing writer living in Austin, TX, jokes that her closest friends think that her hobby is "low-key harassment for social good". She authors a website devoted entirely to People Doing Good Things. She's hosted a yearly canned food drive with up to 150 people stopping by to donate, resulting in hundreds of pounds of donations to take to the food bank for the past decade.

"I try to share info in a positive way that gives people hope and makes them aware of solutions or things they can do to try to make the world a little better," she said.

For now, she's encouraging people through a barrage of persistent, informative, and entertaining emails with one goal in mind: getting people to VOTE. The thing about emailing people and talking about politics, according to Hebert, is to catch their attention—which is how lice got involved.

"When my kids were in elementary school, I was class parent for a year, which meant I had to send the emails to the other parents. As I've learned over the years, a good intro will trick your audience into reading the rest of the email. In fact, another parent told me that my emails always stood out, especially the one that started: 'We need volunteers for the Valentine's Party...oh, and LICE.'"

Hebert isn't working with a specific organization. She is simply trying to motivate others to find ways to plug in to help get out the vote.

Photo by Phillip Goldsberry on Unsplash

Keep Reading Show less
via KrustyKhajiit / YouTube

Thomas F. Wilson played one of the most recognizable villains in film history, Biff Tannen, in the "Back to the Future" series. So, understandably, he gets recognized wherever he goes for the iconic role.

The attention must be nice, but it has to get exhausting answering the same questions day in and day out about the films. So Wilson created a card that he carries with him to hand out to people that answers all the questions he gets asked on a daily basis.

Keep Reading Show less
Courtesy of FIELDTRIP
True

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected diverse communities due largely in part to social factors such as inadequate access to housing, income, dietary options, education and employment — all of which have been shown to affect people's physical health.

Recognizing that inequity, Harlem-based chef JJ Johnson sought out to help his community maximize its health during the pandemic — one grain at a time.

Johnson manages FIELDTRIP, a health-focused restaurant that strives to bring people together through the celebration of rice, a grain found in cuisines of countless cultures.

"It was very important for me to show the world that places like Harlem want access to more health-conscious foods," Johnson said. "The people who live in Harlem should have the option to eat fresh, locally farmed and delicious food that other communities have access to."

Lack of education and access to those healthy food options is a primary driver of why 31% of adults in Harlem are struggling with obesity — the highest rate of any neighborhood in New York City and 7% higher than the average adult obesity rate across the five boroughs.

Obesity increases risk for heart disease or diabetes, which in turn leaves Harlem's residents — who are 76% Black or LatinX — at heightened risk for complications with COVID-19.

Keep Reading Show less
via Marcella Mares / Facebook

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a lot of disruption to people's work and family balance as well as their educational pursuits. These days, people are required to do just about everything simultaneously as they attempt to handle business while taking care of their children.

Marcella, mother to a 10-month-old girl, received an email from one of her instructors at Fresno City College in California, requiring all students to turn on their cameras and microphones during class time.

The request makes sense being that online classes make it easier for some students to take advantage by ignoring the instructor.

Keep Reading Show less
via WatchMojo / YouTube

There are two conflicting viewpoints when it comes to addressing culture from that past that contains offensive elements that would never be acceptable today.

Some believe that old films, TV shows, music or books with out-of-date, offensive elements should be hidden from public view. While others think they should be used as valuable tools that help us learn from the past.

Keep Reading Show less