RunNerdier

musings on running, life, and everything in between

Body image, fitness, and women

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On my run through the woods the other day, I listened to the “Another Mother Runner” podcast. Unfortunately, it was the one about weight. Listening to people talk about food in detail, cutting calories, and “healthier” options on an 11 mile run is NOT what I would recommend. I was wolfing my shot blocks as they described amazing homemade trail mix recipes and the deliciousness of the chips they shouldn’t have eaten. I almost cried when I dropped my last shot block on the path. Does anyone else get ravenously woozy hungry when they run? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Anyhow, it irritated the heck out of me that they were discussing losing weight. I understand that the demographic of the listenership is moms and that we are conditioned to loathe ourselves and want to be thinner, but I thought AMR would do better than discuss how we need to cut calories to lose weight. DUH. Even Jared, the alleged child pornography-viewer/Subway eater knows that! Give us something new, something useful. Maybe it was the length of the run, time of the run, whatever, and I’m being unnecessarily harsh on the AMR gals…or maybe, we, as a society, and women, need to stop critiquing and dissecting women’s bodies like meat on sale at your local grocer.

Oddly enough, I am finally pretty accepting of my body. Only took 30-something years. I generally don’t call myself fat or talk about how I’m so gross (except when I’ve eaten enough to birth a third child), but I’ll admit that my looming 20 year high school reunion has me reconsidering my weight and general physique. This is fairly ridiculous, though. Have any of you looked at the guys from high school recently? Maybe it’s just my school, but most of the girls I was friends with have turned out pretty great (late bloomers all around, ha), but the guys have lost all their hair and gained huge guts. Part of this is probably because women are constantly under scrutiny, constantly held up to an impossible standard, constantly pushing and poking at our worst bits–whereas men have much more leeway in terms of how often they are evaluated on their physical traits (though maybe a male needs to chime in on that one).

I was walking by a table full of magazines earlier today and Gwyneth Paltrow was on the cover of one–Women’s Health maybe? The woman whose sole job is to look attractive–let’s face it, she does such little acting that she can’t even consider that as a career anymore–is being held up to me as an inspiration? Someone who has nearly limitless resources and time is supposed to be within my sphere of reality?

Give me any of the awesome, hard-working, runner moms over “fit” celebrities any day. We are so busy being judged on how ornamental our bodies are, that we forget how amazingly strong and capable they are. Our bodies birth and carry children, bind up wounds, run marathons, lift impossible weights, and help us and our families navigate the tumultuous waters of life. We should thank it. We would never speak to our children or friends the words we think at ourselves.

It’s funny; I’ve been reading about how obesity and our obsession with thin-ness are inextricably related. Yet, it’s also unclear the exact relationship between obesity and health. You can be thin and unhealthy, and harder to grasp is the fact that you can be obese and be healthy. This was made even clearer to me when I read the most recent Runner’s World (sadly, the article isn’t linked online yet so you’ll have to buy a print version). There was a long article about Mirna Valerio, who is an obese ultramarathoner (You can follower her at her blog here).

Yup, obese ultramarathoner, those two words go together. She runs trails, marathons, ultras, is healthy… And she’s obese. I know, it’s head scratchingly confusing.

But then, I started noticing other bits this past week. ESPN does a “body issue,” where it highlights (through photographs) the naked bodies of world-class athletes. The issue is a fascinating dissection of how different extreme fitness can look. Amanda Bingson is an Olympic hammer thrower, and she’s big. And strong. And wildly different from the lithe figure skaters or tiny gymnasts we’re taught to prize. But she is an athlete, a world class one. She talks about valuing the strength of her body and knowing everything it can do and shrugging off comments about her being fat. She realizes the power of her body. You can read more from her interview and see her amazing pictures at http://espn.go.com/olympics/story/_/page/bodyamandabingson/hammer-thrower-amanda-bingson-says-athletes-come-all-shapes-sizes-espn-magazine-body-issue

Another post about Jessamyn Stanley was circulating about being a plus-sized yoga teacher. There have been some recent posts in social media about the whiteness of yoga, so Jessamyn’s breaking expectations with race and body image. (She has a huge following on Instagram so people are loving it)

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One of the posts about Jessamyn quoted her critique of how people view the “typical yoga body” as “Do you do yoga? Do you have a body? Then you have a yoga body.” LOVE it.

It reminds me of this running meme that was going around awhile back:

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Runners, particularly female runners, are likely to disparage themselves as not being “real” runners if they don’t run a certain pace or distance. We need to own our skills and competencies and stop putting ourselves (and others!) down.

Running is hard. Running long distances is even harder. I can do something lots of other people can’t, and for that I reward my body with muttered threats and withering glances. It does what I need it to, does MORE than I need it to. We have to learn to love ourselves and stop judging each (and others) as “not good enough.” Or worse, pretending that “healthy” can’t look lots of different ways. The number of women I have met who have struggled with body image issues and eating disorders is disheartening. I have a daughter who is three, and I want her to always revel in how strong and capable her body is. She loves being naked and thinks that her adult-sounding farts are hilarious (ok, we should probably work on that last one). I don’t want either my son or daughter to grow up with a mother who thinks that being thin is the most important thing or that it’s okay to critique your body all the time. I want them to think of me as the athlete I am, and I want them to think we should fuel our bodies properly to be strong, so that we can go out in the world and run, jump, and be free. So get out there this weekend and be kind to yourself and others.

Author: runNerdier

Marathoner. Academic. Mom of 2 ankle-biters.

One thought on “Body image, fitness, and women

  1. Yes! To all of it! Love this post 🙂 Another great example is Misty Copeland, the newest Principal at the American Ballet Theatre. She a ballerina but her body is strong (as it should be) and fierce.

    Liked by 1 person

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