ChatterRunGirl: From Overweight to Yogini-Runner in Nine Years

Nine years ago, Alice Toyonaga was told by her doctor that if she didn’t change her ways, she would “have a stroke by age 30.” At the time, Alice was an overweight smoker with an out-of-control diet. Many people in Alice’s situation might have felt it too much of an uphill battle, and opted for going into denial, rather that facing the health issues at hand.

But for Alice, her doctor’s words were a real wakeup call.

“I walked into old, no-frills, all women’s gym and signed up,” Alice told “I got on the scale and for the first time saw the number. It was 223 pounds. I was disappointed in my choices, but felt relieved that my doctor told me I could change.”

On the spot, Alice committed to working out at the gym regularly and stopped binge eating. Within two years, she had lost nearly 100 pounds.

But as successful as it might seem, her weight loss project had a dark side. Alice had become obsessed with losing weight: She was counting every calorie and charting every ingredient. And while she had lost the weight, her relationship with food and dieting was only becoming more and more unhealthy.

Finally, looking for a way to maintain a healthy and sustainable journey to health, she turned to running. She became part of a community of active, positive people at a local running store, and eventually became fit enough to train for races and half-marathons.

Then, her training came to an abrupt halt. She needed surgery, and for a period of time was unable to maintain her regular running routine.

This is when she discovered yoga.

Alice turned to yoga mainly because it was something she could do to keep herself active until she had recovered sufficiently from the surgery to start running again. But the mental peace that accompanies a regular yoga practice left her feeling healthier than she’d ever felt after a run or gym workout. And as an added bonus, as yoga transformed her relationship to her body, she found her relationship to eating improved as well.

When Alice finally returned to running she kept up her yoga practice as well. And, she had found her life’s mission: Sharing the benefits of an active lifestyle and the benefits that come with it—beyond ‘just’ losing weight.

Almost a decade after her fateful appointment with her doctor, Alice has a burgeoning career as a fitness and nutrition motivator. She runs her own blog and website, ChatterRunGirl, which is an online yoga resource for runners that offer support and community, and she travels around North America teaching yoga workshops for runners.

“I’ve often been told to share the story of my weight loss and life changes,” Alice notes on her blog in a reflective post about her journey. “Truth be told, I’ve never really wanted to share this story. I am not sure why. Perhaps, it’s because I am embarrassed of where I was. Perhaps it’s because I don’t think it’s that unique a story, nor that inspiring. Perhaps it’s because the story isn’t over, and likely never will be.”

Truth be told, the journey towards a healthy(ier) lifestyle is never over for anyone. However, Alice’s story is an inspiring example of someone who has been at both extremes of the personal health spectrum – from out-of-shape smoker to calorie-counting obsessive – and finally found greater balance in her life. Her story is a great reminder for everyone of just how rewarding and life-transforming that journey can be.

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