On a forum (not Tough Girl Tribe or Challenges) a lady recently posted that she’d been running for a while now and still didn’t have the “runners body” she was expecting and, furthermore, she’d actually put on weight! Gasp. Her message was slightly tongue in cheek (it’d seem), but a lot of the replies on the post gave her the following suggestions:
- Suggestions on how to cut out carbs to lose more weight
- Statements that running didn’t cut out as many calories as people might expect and overeating could be the cause of the weight gain
- Sympathy type messages from ladies saying they hated their (insert body part) to
- Some messages from ladies saying “you are beautiful”
To be honest, I was quite surprised that the general theme was how to lose more weight to “get the perfect body” and it made me quite angry. I’m not suggesting that the desire to lose weight for health reasons is bad and nor am I suggesting that the desire to have the “perfect” healthy body is wrong, but what I find depressing is the sheer scale of women (it was a women’s forum) who still appear to associate weight loss with sport and who think that cutting out a certain food group is healthy. Plus, what is the perfect body? Why is the assumption that thinner is better?
I took some time and then posted my own reply. As follows:
First off, you run, so you have a runner’s body. Secondly, the images displayed on posters, billboards, in magazines and on TV in relation to sport and exercise are (mostly) showing models who do not do a high level of exercise – it gives us a skewed image of what we “should” be looking like when we do exercise. Have you seen what professional sports women look like? They are STRONG. Thirdly, the same volume of muscle weighs more than the same volume of fat (and that’s a fact) so if you are interested in looking/being thinner then go on measurements and ditch the scales. Lastly, please do not worry about looking perfect for running – just go and run. Your body is beautiful, it is capable of achieving amazing things so love it and nourish it!
Please do not misunderstand me! I’m not immune to lack of self-confidence. I had issues with food for several years which didn’t really resolve itself until I was in my late 20’s. I haven’t been 100% comfortable in my body on many occasions which is just terribly sad, but I have always felt powerful when I climb, run or go into the mountains on my own.
Running didn’t give me the body I thought it would either, but it made me feel really powerful and how I looked became less and less relevant. The bits of my body that I disliked moved into the background and the bits of my body I did like moved to the front. I could see powerful leg muscles, I could see muscles in my stomach and I could run for the bus without getting out of breath!
Being pregnant and not being able to run as much (or as far) as I was when I was training has had an impact. I do not feel as fit, my MH has not been as good and my weight has increased, but how much of that is down to pregnancy weight gain and how much it’s connected to less exercise is open to debate. I’ve also not been able to climb as much. There has been limited bouldering (which is my first love) and limited roped climbing, but I have still been doing the activities as and when I can. This has seriously helped me maintain as much of me as possible.
Don’t get me wrong; my body changing shape (even subtly at this point) has been a challenge for me to deal with. It’s taken a lot of rational thinking to get my head round the fact that weight gain while pregnant is normal and does not mean I am fat. I am currently at the stage where I am looking a bit thicker, my waist has started to resemble a rectangle rather than hourglass and my stomach sticks out a bit – mainly after food. It’s going to change more. Something that has to happen for me to grow a healthy baby and something I need to accept.
So, now more than ever I do not resemble the ladies on the billboards, in the adverts and in the glossy magazines. I don’t look like the runners in any literature that I see. I’m not represented anywhere apart from in mumsy magazines and on mumsy internet forums which, no offence, aren’t my cup of tea.
However, I am going to keep positive, keep writing and keep trying to help others where I can. I will keep as active as possible and hopefully, once the baby is out, I’ll be back to fitness within the year.