Our society has been lead to believe that working out is something you do to lose weight. We've been told that juice cleanses are good for you (they're not), that fat is bad (it's not), and carbs are the enemy (they're not. Carbs are wonderful.) . We've been beat over the head with the idea that an A-list picture perfect body is the only perfect body and that the only way you'll be attractive is if you can fit into a sample size. It's bull shit and I'm tired of it.
I'm tired of seeing people get guilted into gym memberships or trying whatever fad diet or fitness trend is stampeding through publications and the mainstream media just because they think it's a miracle workout that's going to help them "LOSE WEIGHT FAST!" I'm sick of allowing the mainstream media to condition us to believe that because we have imperfections, they make us less desirable.
It's heartbreaking to me that so many of us feel disappointed by our bodies. It doesn't make sense to me that we don't put our health and well being before perceived perfection. And most importantly, I don't understand why we feel self conscious about our strong and capable bodies!
On Tuesday, I was in an Uber, engaging in a pleasant conversation when my driver said to me, "If you're a runner, why aren't you thin?". It wasn't a put down, he was genuinely confused that I ran as much as I said I did and didn't look like a stereotypical runner. I didn't dissolve into a puddle of shame and self hatred like I would have three years ago, instead I explained to him that my US size 8-10 body is strong AF. OK, that's not entirely true. My gut reaction was to justify his comment by saying, "I love to eat" which isn't something I'm proud of saying. In fact, I'm really disappointed in myself. Yes I love to eat, who doesn't(!?!), but I said what I said to justify his question. I went on to explain that runners come in all different shapes and sizes and that a stereotypical runners body is just one of many different body types. We ended up having a great discussion and though I hope he never again asks someone why they aren't thin, he was just reflecting what we've been conditioned to believe for years.
It doesn't matter what weight or body shape you are, we all struggle with the same self confidence issues. My heart breaks when my slimmer friends are told to eat a sandwich or when my curvier friends have to explain that they can run and not be a sample size. (Or not be trying to lose weight for that matter!) No one body type is safe from put downs and it's really frustrating.
I'm done with feeling pressure to justify my strength. I'm sick and tired of being sold this idea that working out is a means to weight loss instead of health. Health is not a look, it's a lifestyle. When I started running half marathons and marathons, I realized that the confidence I gained knowing that I worked really hard to accomplishing a goal that felt impossible changed my life. Just knowing that I'm strong enough to run a 5K or a 10K for fun empowers me. It reminds me that my insecurities don't define me, they're just a part of working out my self confidence and self worth muscle.
I'm all for losing weight if you're not happy with what you see when you look in the mirror. After my brother passed away, I gained over 75 pounds and I no longer felt like myself. I was miserable. But I wanted to lose weight to feel desirable so I overhauled my diet and begrudgingly spent time in the gym. After months of hard work and healthy lifestyle changes, I was heartbroken when I lost the weight and STILL hated what I saw when I looked in the mirror. Despite working on myself physically, I neglected to work on my self perception and self confidence. I didn't truly accept my own strength and beauty until I did the work to appreciate it.
Strength doesn't look a certain way, it feels a certain way. And when you look at someone who radiates confidence, that's what you're seeing. The only way we're going to change this perception that runners or health looks a certain way is if we fight back.
I challenge you, every time you see a tweet or post online, to just comment health is not a look, it's a lifestyle.
And then do everything you can to be the strongest, happiest, and healthiest you possible. Whatever that looks like! You're strong, you're beautiful, and you're capable. A perfect body is the body that you have! Now let's end the bull shit pursuit of the perfect body, shall we?
Until next time, #RunSelfieRepeat.