I'm tired of being made to feel like I'm not working hard enough because the bodies the women who personify "fit" or "in shape" don't look like mine.
I'm tired of feeling like I'm different because when I look around the room at an industry event, I'm the only without a stereotypical "runners body".
I'm tired of scrolling through my social media feed and seeing only highlights and never struggles.
I'm tired of people saying, "Giving up isn't an option" when I know from experience that giving up is always an option.
I'm tired of seeing young girls talk about feeling like they need to lose weight.
I'm tired of seeing women tear one another down because they think they're in competition with one another.
And I'm really f*cking tired that I have to keep writing how frustrating it is that fitness brands fail to represent women of all different shapes, sizes, and athletic levels.
I remember when I was a brand new runner back in 2013, I was training for my first marathon. I was getting ready to run my first 15 mile long run and 15 miles felt like a pilgrimage. Before I left that morning, I woke my Mom up and nervously asked her to keep her phone near her just in case I couldn't finish and needed her to come save me.
I wore a fuel belt around my waist with a water bottle in it for hydration and as I slowly jogged up to my house, having successfully ran all 15 miles, my Mom snapped a picture of me approaching to capture my triumphant success. I remember looking at the picture, excited to share my accomplishment on Facebook, and feeling a tidal wave of embarrassment wash over me. Insecure and uncomfortable with how I looked, I asked her to delete the photo.
My fuel belt amplified my disgusting love handles and instead of seeing my strong body that was capable of running 15 miles, I saw my love handles that proved to me that regardless of how far I ran, I'd never look like a real runner.
Looking back, it's not surprising that I was embarrassed by my love handles because no one ever gave me a reason to embrace them. Strong, in shape women don't have love handles. I know because when I scroll through the social media feeds of the brands and publications who have defined what fit and in shape looks like, it's photo after photo of the same exact body type. And when anyone who isn't rocking a low body fat percentage is represented, it's always a body positive post.
And let me just say, I know how hard those women work for their strength. I'm don't want to discredit their drive and perseverance because in addition to being total badasses, I know how inspiring and motivating they are as well. But when we fail to represent a range of body types and experiences, we are telling women that how they look is more important than feeling proud of what their bodies can do.
Why do we continue to support brands who perpetuate the narrative that fit looks a certain way?
Why do we glorify people who share only their successes and not the soul crushing shitty days where you cry one mile in because your calves are screaming and you have to stop to walk?
Why do we glorify diets and people who refuse to promote a balanced diet? 1,000 calories a day isn't what health looks like. Eating a well rounded diet of lean meats, fruits, veggies, and whole grains is. If I have to see one more health and fitness guru promote eating a burger without the bun, without the cheese, and without the sauce one more time, I'm going to explode. Have a cheeseburger every once in a while. You won't turn into a pumpkin when you indulge in moderation. I promise.
My favorite part about running is that it's something that I'm not innately good at. I was never athletic growing up. I didn't play sports because I didn't enjoy being physically active. I used to force myself to go to the gym because I thought working out was something I should be suffering through so that I could lose weight and eventually look the way women who were in shape looked. I didn't think my body was something I should be proud of because I had love handles, cellulite, and stretch marks.
Running taught me that that was bullshit.
Strength doesn't look a certain way, it feels a certain way. And as liberating and empowering as that strength feels, it's not easy to acquire. It requires hard work, perseverance, and sacrifice. But most importantly, it requires you to get honest, raw, and ugly.
For every win, share a struggle or a set back. Because it's in those moments of vulnerability that we really shine. There's nothing more gratifying than crossing a finish line but if I'm being honest, it's the moments that used to fill me with shame and embarrassment, like seeing that picture of me with huge love handles, that I find the most empowering and liberating.
Anyone can be pretty and flawless, that's why photoshop is a billion dollar industry. But not everyone can stand proudly displaying the parts of themselves they've been told make them imperfect.
In order to destroy the idea that fit looks a certain way, we need to get real. We have to get raw, ugly, and vulnerable.
Don't be afraid to share your doubts or insecurities. They make you human. And the more we talk about them, the less intimidating they'll feel. We'll never strip away the power they have over us unless we all decide that we aren't just enough, that we're already the best versions of ourselves.
A perfect body isn't the one you'd think you'd have if you could hit your goal weight, it's knowing that you're doing everything you can to be the healthiest, happiest, most vulnerable, and strongest version of yourself possible.
That's what real perfection looks like.
Try it. See what happens.
Until next time, #RunSelfieRepeat.
Thank you GURMINDER BANGA for waking up at dawn and encouraging me to get as real, vulnerable, and ugly as possible. It's so rare to meet photographers who understand the beauty that comes from raw, unapologetic vulnerability.
And thank you Oiselle for sponsoring this average 165 pound lady. I'm so honored to be apart of your badass lady gang. Thank you for embracing the shape of the everyday runner and understanding that we don't run to look a certain way.