Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The skinny on why I love running

I'll never say that I have or ever had an eating disorder. Sure, I've gone a day or two without eating or made myself sick, but I've never been undernourished in my life. When I was little I would look up to people who were anorexic, I even respected them. I could never be so dedicated to losing weight and I was so impressed by people I read about, that I used their stories for motivation. And, that's pretty messed up.

Until I was in fourth or fifth grade, I was skinny. So skinny, that classmates would come up to me and joke about how they could fit their hands around my ankles. I even had someone tell me "you're not that bad, I always thought you were just that really skinny, shy girl." I ate everything in sight, and so I decided I was one of those blessed people who would always be skinny.

I started doing gymnastics, hit puberty, and in one summer I went from 78 to 91 pounds (yes, I remember the exact numbers). I freaked out about it. I remember the first picture I saw that summer, in a two-piece bathing suit, and I thought I looked fat. So began my crazy body image issues.

When I see overweight children (especially girls), I think less about their future health problems and much more about what they will go through once they hit adolescence and their figure will mean the world to them. In one way, I'm glad it happened to me. I focused on healthy eating and started running.

By mid-high school, I no longer really wanted to be skinny, I just wanted to be happy. In every resolution, and in the letter I got to write (and address) to my future self, I never said that I wanted to weigh 100 pounds, just that I wanted to be happy and confident in my body. Its exhausting to worry about it, to rip it apart in the mirrors, to feel guilty through every bite of food. It takes so much of a toll on my life. I don't even want to be skinny anymore, I just want to be fit, healthy, happy and confident.

I get these small reprieves from my body image issues, which is why I cherish them so much. Because, when your body takes you through 26.2 miles in just over 3 hours and 22 minutes, you can't hate it. Its not about what it looks like, its about what it can do. I discovered this the first time I ran ten miles, while training for my first marathon. I came home, and I looked in the mirror. I wasn't any thinner than when I left, but I felt so great and all I could do was look at myself and think wow, those legs just took me ten miles.

And, there is no mirror more flattering than the one at gyms. Every time I stand in front of a mirror to lift weights, I'm incredibly happy with my fit, little self.

I've been waiting to write about conquering these issues, but I've realized that it just might never happen. I'll probably never rid myself of them for good. But training helps me focus on being healthy. Food becomes fuel, and putting it in that perspective really helps. While running, and after every run, I feel absolutely fantastic and happy with my body. It may last anywhere from 10 minutes to a few days, and that small break from stressing out means the world to me. Its why I really don't think I could ever give running up. The best way to accept my body is to challenge it, and every time it comes through for me, I get a little better at accepting it as is.


  1. What an awesome post. So well said. It should be printed and distributed at Girl On The Run!

    Considering how powerfully running transforms negative body issues, I find it unusual that I don't come across more posts like yours.

  2. Thanks for posting this, and for linking to it again—I missed it the first time around. The terrifying thing about this is that these are issues I'm pretty sure every woman has coped with—no matter what size or shape she is. I'm just lucky that, like you, I'm one of the women who realized this: "There is no mirror more flattering than the one at the gym. Every time I stand in front of a mirror to lift weights, I'm incredibly happy with my fit, little self."

    Cheers to your fit little self!