Our women in fitness series is a celebration of fly girls doing fly things. Meet Latoya Shauntay – a plus-sized ultra marathon runner from New York who’s challenging stereotypes and pre-conceptions, one mile at a time.
Latoya Shauntay’s story
In 2012, a week prior to Hurricane Sandy, I was diagnosed with sciatica and a herniated disc. My culinary career was placed on halt and my general practitioner placed me on temporary medical leave. Honestly, I thought it would be a few weeks but I was out for a year. While going through a check up, he warned me about my weight, noting that I should lose some pounds because my health was failing. I had 21 fibroids, back issues, circulation problems that I ignored for months and at times, losing sensation in my fingers from a lack of Vitamin B and an unhealthy relationship with food.
Frankly, a part of me was frustrated because it felt like I was being criticised by everyone about being a plus size woman. When I felt confident in my skin, I had others giving me ten reasons why I shouldn’t and when I wanted to lose the weight, I was shoved Weight Watcher programmes, a diet programme or the trendiest DVD down my throat. I wasn’t suggested lifestyle changes to carry on with my life. In one breath, I wanted to lose weight but not the ways that others suggested or implied. Initially I wanted to lose the weight simply for the improvement for my health, not my vanity. After losing the weight, visually I realised that my weight loss goal didn’t make me as happy as people painted it to be. In turn, I gained a bit back but kept the fitness journey and healthier eating habits along the way. When I think back to some of the traumatising moments, I recall a friend telling me that I let myself go. “You looked hot in high school but I don’t know what happened to you now; it’s like you don’t care. That’s why I think you should take these pills to lose this weight.” If it wasn’t for my fear of medication, I think I would’ve tried the trendy diet pills years ago but I ruled that out as an option.
Becoming my own cheer squad
On another occasion, I was disrespected by my friends and loved ones in my own living room as they lectured me about not getting seconds after not eating anything for 14 hours. If I explained myself, I was labeled hostile or appeared to be the stereotypical “angry black woman” and I allowed them to shame me in my own home. When I tried to recruit help from some of these people, they were either nowhere to be found or weren’t consistent. When I realised that all of these people who were giving me ‘advice’ to lose the weight weren’t helping me, I became my own cheer squad.
On May 28, 2013, I started my ‘weight loss journey’ and loss approximately 100 pounds in a year. Ten pounds away from my goal weight, I realised my mind didn’t process it; I wanted a lifestyle change. From that moment, I changed my mindset and wanted to take all of these healthy practices and transform it into a fitness journey. In 2014, I embarked on every crazy adventure that I thought I couldn’t do – practically all as a plus size woman. I jumped out of a perfectly good airplane, completed a 100-mile cycling ride on numerous occasions, ran a half marathon – which later on guided me into marathons and ultra marathons – participated in extreme obstacle course races, took up pole dancing and did yoga classes. My fitness journey helped me find myself, not my weight loss. In 2018, I find myself still finding ways to keep that fire burning in me. In turn, I allow my passion for fitness to tackle some of my fears.
For 2018, I am:
- doing a trail ultra marathon with the North Face Endurance Challenge in DC – 50K;
- taking on my first triathlon with the New Jersey State Triathlon in which I’m currently learning how to swim;
- and taking on an adventure that I never thought I’d do: attempting the Javelina Jundred 100K – it scares every bone in my body.
Other major events are the Chicago Marathon for the 3rd year, NYC Marathon for the 4th time, possibly the NYRR 60K when it opens and the Spartan Beast in Mulberry, Florida. My calendar is constantly updating so who knows what other races are in my future!
Latoya Shauntay’s fitness and health tips
In culinary school, one of the most memorable instructors that I had, Chef Steven Cruz, spoke with us about three key terms to make it in the industry: Passion, Dedication and Professionalism. It made such an impact on me that I had it tattooed on my right arm; I translated it into every aspect of my life and in turn used it as my motivation for fitness routine. From it grew: Consistency, Humility and Audacity. With anything that we do, whether it's running for 50 miles to doing yoga, it requires discipline to continue something after dealing with adversity, failure and success.Latoya ShauntayFood and fitness blogger - Running Fat Chef
The hardest part, in my opinion, is when you get too comfortable. For some people, it means that it stirs up boredom, arrogance and a lack of desire. On your hardest days, remind yourself that you are a lifelong student to your craft and while learning, you're allowed to make mistakes. We're human--beautifully flawed. On your best days, remember to thank your body, mind and spirit for allowing you to continue this journey.Latoya ShauntayFood and fitness blogger - Running Fat Chef
When you question why you are still doing something, shake it up by embracing your crazy. Some of the most memorable people in history did the zaniest of things that others weren't willing to try. Scare yourself enough that it excites every bone in your body and then place realistic goals to attain it.Latoya ShauntayFood and fitness blogger - Running Fat Chef