How I Got This Body: Quitting “Diets,” Losing 15 Pounds, and Training for Marathons

How I Got This Body: Quitting “Diets,” Losing 15 Pounds, and Training for Marathons
Photographs courtesy Dorothy Beal.

Welcome to How I Got This Body, our look at some of the amazing things the human body is capable of and the Washingtonians who put their bodies to the test. Want to share your transformation story? Email ideas@washingtonian.com.

Who I am: Dorothy Beal, 35, marathoner and blogger behind Mile Posts (@mileposts) from Leesburg

Why I wanted to make a change: “I’d always been the girl who was unhappy with her body. As far back as age ten, I can remember thinking terrible things about myself, but when I went to college it got worse. I gained a lot of weight from eating too much, drinking too much and smoking daily. The more weight I gained the more insecure I grew. Eventually I was diagnosed with social anxiety. It was sort of this cycle, I’d drink to escape the anxiety and I’d over eat because my inhibitions were lowered. I’d wake up the next day and feel horrible not only from the alcohol but because I’d sit there obsessing over what I said to people, how I acted, what I ate, etc. Then I would eat my emotions and polish off an entire medium pizza, feel better for a little while, and then make the choice to drink again.

“It took hitting rock bottom emotionally for my family to step in and say hey, we see you need help—let us help you make the changes we see you want. The day it really clicked with me, I was running a race with both of my parents. My training consisted of cutting down on the amount I was smoking. My mom asked my dad to run with me. I ended up running so slow that my dad asked, Would you be okay if I went ahead and just met you at the finish? It might sound mean that he left me but it doesn’t upset me at all—it was a pivotal point in my journey. I was young and couldn’t even keep up with my parents. I didn’t want that life anymore.”

What changed: “[I was at] 150 pounds. I don’t know that I would say I have an ending weight but I’m currently 135. I took the weight loss to an extreme and at my lowest was 110 pounds. That weight was just as unhealthy for me as the 150. I aim now to keep my weight between 125 to 135 and know that the constant fluctuations are just a part of life. Sometimes I indulge more and workout less, and sometimes I clean up my diet and really focus on my running and lifting.”

How long it took:  “From what felt like rock-bottom to marathoner: three years.”

Dorothy Beal is now a 34-time marathoner.

My exercise plan: “I started running! At first it was once or twice a week but in the last year of my initial ‘transformation’ to a marathoner I was running five days a week. I aim now to run five days a week and lift weights at least two days—but that’s an average. I enjoy hiking, yoga, long walks, pilates, cycling, and home workouts—so essentially, I’m working out five to six days a week and I mix it up. I think mixing things up keeps me from getting bored. When I’m tired of one type of movement I do something else!”

My nutrition plan: “First and foremost, I took the time to learn about food. That may sound silly, but I just didn’t understand what was healthy and what wasn’t. I just assumed eating a Lean Pocket or a packet of brown sugar oatmeal was good for me. Now I aim to eat food as close to its natural state as possible. I tried different ‘diets’ but they never stuck. I like food way too much to eliminate certain food groups. I eat everything and anything I want, but I also know there is a price to pay when I don’t eat as healthy as I could. I’ve gotten to the point now that when I eat junk I feel so terrible, it makes me immediately want to return to eating more vegetables. I’m also aware that if I eat too much food my pants are going to feel tight, I don’t like that feeling, so it helps me self moderate my nutritional needs with what my wants are.”

I know exactly where I was in the past and how much mental and physical work it took to get to this healthier place.

How I feel now: “I was the girl in high school that faked hyperventilating during soccer practice to get out of running laps. To think that my body has carried me through 34 marathons and grown three little humans is absolutely amazing to me. Plenty of women have kids, run marathons and are much fitter than me. I don’t compare myself to them or anyone else for that matter. Because I don’t fall in to the comparison trap I can say I’m pretty darn proud of where I am at now. I know exactly where I was in the past and how much mental and physical work it took to get to this healthier place.”

How I stuck to my goals: “I think about my ‘why’ a lot. When my alarm goes off and I don’t want to get out of bed, I think to myself: Will you regret it later that you did the workout, or will you regret that you didn’t do it? Nine times out of ten it’s enough to push me to do whatever it is to reach the goals I set out for myself each year.”

One piece of advice: “I think often we play the victim in our own minds—we think it’s easier for everyone else or that some how it’s harder for us then them. It isn’t. It’s hard for everyone, even elite athletes struggle with motivation.”

This interview has been edited and condensed. 

Get Our Weekend Newsletter

The best DC news, delivered straight to your inbox.
Or, see all of our newsletters. By signing up, you agree to our terms.

Associate Editor

Caroline Cunningham joined Washingtonian in 2014 after moving to the DC area from Cincinnati, where she interned and freelanced for Cincinnati Magazine and worked in content marketing. She currently resides in College Park.