WARNING: Long, rant-y post ahead. And it’s sort of running related, but mostly about body image. Lately I feel like I’ve been going on and on about the subject but if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 17 years as a runner, it’s that how we view our bodies can be the biggest obstacle to getting our asses out the door and running.
You’d think it would be the opposite – we’d see an unflattering photo, and suddenly there would be endless motivation to exercise for 2 hours a day and eat nothing but kale and quinoa. And sure, that works for some people. Heck, it works for most of us…for about a week.
And then when you hop on the scale and realize you’ve only lost .8 pounds after all that hard work, you’re right back where you started: on the couch with a bag of Cheetos and season 2 of Game of Thrones (true story).
But that’s not the worst of it – not even close. The worst part is what’s going on in your mind when you think about OTHER PEOPLE seeing your weight gain. It’s bad enough when you can’t fit into your clothes, or when running is harder because you’re basically carrying a 50-pound backpack wherever you go. But the real knife in the heart is fearing that other people have taken notice.
Bottom line: You’re worried that people will whisper “She’s gained a lot of weight” as soon as your back is turned. Face it – you’d almost rather be accused of murder than of getting fat. It carries that much stigma. As if gaining weight is a character flaw, something that only bad, terrible, disturbed people would do.
At least, that’s how I feel sometimes. It’s what I imagine everyone says about me when I leave the room, or when they see a candid photo of me on Facebook that doesn’t show my best angle (for future reference, that angle is: head tilted down, eyes looking slightly up at the camera, and with my hair covering my neck).
It’s not a sin to be overweight, but considering how we treat ourselves if our bodies don’t meet society’s standards, well it might as well be punishable by law. No wonder the Kardashians are so neurotic. The pressure on them to look perfect or risk public ridicule is enormous.
Sometimes, I find myself wanting to tell everyone all the reasons my weight has crept up over the past year, so that they understand I’m not a terrible, lazy, bad person, just someone who’s default coping mechanism happens to be sugar (and, OK I’ll admit it – prosecco.)
I have entire conversations about it in my head. In detail.
Here’s the thing though – all of these mental rebuttals to imaginary comments from other people, all of the justifications I’m making in my head…that’s exactly where they start and end. It’s all self-created bullshit.
I have no idea what other people are thinking when they see me, and frankly it’s none of my business. In reality, most of them are probably thinking ‘Yay, there’s my friend Jill. Looks like she she got pink highlights. Woohoo – there’s another baby goat video on Facebook.’
Sometimes it’s easier to assume other people are judging you than to recognize that you’re really judging yourself. We are our own worst critics, and there’s not a thing someone else could say to me that I haven’t said even more critically to myself a hundred times over.
If you catch yourself worrying about what someone else thinks – or says – about your size, remember that your opinion is the only one that matters. Seriously.
IT’S ALSO THE ONLY OPINION YOU HAVE THE POWER TO CHANGE.
Noodle on that for a minute.
Consider what YOU think about your body, and whether it is compassionate or hurtful. What others think about you can’t affect you unless on some level, you believe it. And that’s where the problem begins and ends.
It’s not easy to change your mind about yourself, and it doesn’t happen overnight. Sometimes you’ll change your mind one day, and wake up the next thinking those old nasty thoughts again. That’s OK – you can always choose the nice ones again when you notice what’s going on.
Here’s the best part – I find that when I think nice things about myself, I tend to do nice things FOR myself. Like running. And strength training. And eating right. It doesn’t usually work the other way around, get healthy and THEN love yourself. You can’t hate yourself thin, fit or healthy. The only way to get there is love.
It all starts in your mind, choosing kindness over criticism. If other people want to judge, let ’em. You’ve got better things to do.