A Talk About Body Image

As a female runner, I’ve dealt with my fair share of body image issues. The emotions have varied between feeling amazingly strong (after finishing a tough workout or a good race) to feeling yucky (wayyyy too many cookies after dinner!). Fueling the body to function at its best is often a delicate balance – you want to eat enough to feel energetic, but there’s enormous pressure to be thin. I’ve seen friends and teammates fall victim to the “less is more” trap i.e. if I weigh less, I will run faster! I’ve learned that’s not necessarily the case. While a lighter runner does have better running economy (amount of oxygen needed to run a certain distance or pace), if he/she is iron deficient or running on empty, the mileage is just going to break the body down. Body image (especially among women and athletes) is a very sensitive and difficult issue. I definitely have days were I regret eating too many french fries or dislike the way my stomach looks in a bathing suit, but I try to keep it in perspective. I’m proud of my body for the things it allows me to do (run marathons, whisk up the perfect egg white meringue, schlep home my heavy grocery bags, etc.) It kills me to hear other women berate themselves for their appearance. I never know how to respond to “fat talk”.  It just makes me so sad and uncomfortable! I want to tell them that no one else notices their butt size, to focus on how the feel rather than how they look, but I don’t want to be a hypocrite. I mean, we all have body hang-ups. One thing I know for sure: If I ever have daughters, I want to be the best body example possible. I want to show them that it’s OK to eat cake sometimes, that it feels good to run around and be active, and that what I look like on the outside isn’t nearly as important as all the great things my body and mind can do.

Angela from Oh She Glows wrote a great post recently about body image. She overheard a little girl tell her mother that there were 5 grams of fat in a granola bar. I couldn’t get this out of my mind…kindergartners shouldn’t be worrying about fat grams!

http://ohsheglows.com/2009/06/17/goodbye-to-the-obsession/

On a related note, Caitlin from The Healthy Tipping Point has started an “Operation Beautiful” project. Love it!

http://www.healthytippingpoint.com/2009/06/operation-beautiful.html

  • I really appreciate that you think about this in relation to running – I, too, have fallen victim to the less is better mentality and I’ve had a really tough time balancing the needs of my body with my running/fitness goals. I agree that it’s so important to be the best body example possible for our future children. We can make a huge difference by raising future generations to have a better attitude about health and diet!

  • roseyrebecca

    I love the operation beautiful idea. And they Oh She Glows post was amazing.

  • I totally agree and loved this post! I know what you mean about wanting to say something when you hear people using “fat talk”. I guess the best we can do is to start with ourselves. I found your site by visiting Operation Beautiful. Love it 🙂 Have a great day!!!

  • Jen

    You’re amazing!