Today’s post is a bit more serious in nature, but it’s something that I’ve been wanting to talk about for a long time (I actually wrote excerpts of this post months ago.) In case you were not aware, this week is National Eating Disorders Awareness week. While I am fortunate to say I’ve never experienced an eating disorder, I have had my moments of struggling with food and my body image.
I recently read this article – “This is the Brutally Honest Body Image Lesson That Should Be Taught in School“, and immediately, I just thought “yes, yes, yes – it’s so true.”
To summarize, the article discusses the pressures women feel to look a certain way from magazines and the media, and how this will often drive women’s decisions about fitness. It’s not “Oh, I like to run, let me go out and get a few miles in”; it’s more like, “If I run 6 miles, will I have burned enough calories to finally have a flat stomach?”
For so many women, exercise is not about gaining strength, it’s about trying to make yourself look a certain way. And I know, because I struggle with this too.
I’ve always felt a little weird talking about body image here on the blog because it is such a public forum, and to be honest, it’s embarrassing to admit my own self-esteem issues. But I want to get it out there, because I do think it’s an important conversation to have. Articles like these (and all the blog posts I’ve seen lately about strong, beautiful women who are struggling to recover from ED’s) only further solidify to me that this is a serious issue, and it’s one that girls will have to deal with throughout their lives, even as they grow up and learn to accept themselves. It starts when girls are as young as 4-5, continues throughout college (I saw it firsthand living with a bunch of girls… and I do it too.), and keeps going. When I was working at a clothing store that catered to the taste of older, professional women, I heard a lot of disparaging remarks about bodies. And these were women talking about themselves.
When does it stop? When are women allowed to recognize that our bodies may be imperfect, but that we are all still beautiful? How do you make exercise about doing something good for your body and not about squeezing into a size zero?
I know it’s not a simple process. I’m not going to wake up tomorrow with all my insecurities magically erased. It’s a conscious progression that comes with work. So I want to share some of the things I appreciate about my body – things that I used to view in very different ways. (And just to preface this, I’m not looking for compliments! I’m just trying to change the way I look at my body and to be a part of the conversation about this.)
I think they’re nice. When I was very young, a friend pointed out to me that my first toe is longer than my big toe (something I had never noticed before). She thought it was weird, so naturally, I thought it was weird too. These feet have carried me through 10 half marathons, 1 marathon, and too many 5ks and 10ks to count. So yeah, I think I’m cool with my feet.
- My legs.
I used to hate my thighs (I still think they’re too big on certain days – I’m working on that.) But when I look at them, I can see evidence of who I am. No, I don’t have the coveted thigh gap, but I can see the strength in my calves that has come from miles of running and workouts. I can see the determination and commitment that I carry with me in all aspects of my life. My legs are strong and healthy and my greatest asset as a runner.
- My stomach.
It’s what I struggle with the most. I scan through Instagram and I see photos of fitness models with perfectly flat stomachs and clearly defined abs, and I wonder why I don’t look like that. It can be hard to remember that skinny is not always healthy, and that I’d rather be strong than starving.
- My arms
Lately I’ve been very excited about the emerging muscle tone I have in my arms. I never used to do much strength-training, but since discovering Fitnessblender videos, I’ve been incorporating weights into my workout on a pretty regular basis. And I love the results. My arms don’t look any skinnier, but they look stronger. And that is something I’m proud of.
- My hair, my smile, my eyebrows.
I know, the eyebrows is a strange one. But I am actually weirdly proud of my eyebrows. I just think they have a nice shape! And while I used to think of my hair as excessively thick and hard to style, I now appreciate the volume. And I love to smile. I’ve been told my smile lights up a room, so that sure makes a girl feel good!
Be a part of changing the conversation – what do you ♥ about your body?