Yesterday was a fairly lazy day for me. It was Sunday, after all, and I ran a 5K and got in a lot of walking on the day before, so there’s nothing wrong with a little rest. But something about sitting on the couch all day rankled, so at 8:30 p.m. I put on my shoes and headed out for a walk.
Does anyone else feel strange out walking by themselves? Running is one thing, but walking seems like something you either need a purpose or a partner for. This is why I need a dog.
So, I decided to put my headphones in and I fired up a podcast. I’m trying to listen to podcasts more, especially ones that will teach me something, but they’re almost virtually impossible to listen to while trying to get anything productive done — except walking (or running!).
Last night I listened to the Run, Selfie, Repeat podcast by Kelly Roberts, who owns a blog by the same name. I started following Roberts on Instagram and reading her blog earlier this year and immediately related. She’s hilarious and strong and I love her message — and she is doing great work to dismantle our perceptions about what runners, and women in particular, should look like.
Her two most recent podcast episodes are called “FAT” and “70% of Women Don’t Like Their Bodies and It’s Not OK.” Both were incredibly moving and really got me thinking — even more than I already do, which is a ton — about our cultural beauty standards and the things we’re teaching each other and our kids about what beauty is.
In “FAT,” Roberts reacts to a recent episode of This American Life titled “Tell Me I’m Fat.” I haven’t listened to that TAL installment, but she explains it explores the way we use the word “fat” in our culture, given that two-thirds of Americans are classified as overweight or obese. Her message: “OF COURSE IT'S TIME TO RETHINK THE WORD FAT.”
Roberts goes on to tell the story of her struggle with dieting and weight-loss pills as a teenager. On the one hand, her story is horrifying, but on the other, it’s not particularly unique. Young girls are bombarded with these images of the ideal female body and many of them react. They diet; they don’t eat; they work out obsessively; they find a way to get their hands on weight-loss pills. It’s terrifying.
In “70% of Women Don’t Like Their Bodies and It’s Not OK,” she goes on to cite some startling statistics:
- 70% of women report that they don’t like their bodies
- 89% of women have dieted by age 17 (National Eating Disorders Association)
- 4% of women around the world consider themselves beautiful (Dove)
WHAT??! None of that is OK.
But did you know that only 5% of American women naturally possess the ideal body type portrayed in advertising? (Source) Most American women are “plus-sized,” which is a problematic enough label, but we rarely see that portrayed in the media.
It’s not you — it’s THEM!
I’ve been on this mission to love myself for years, now, but it didn’t start out that way. Three years ago, I just wanted to lose the weight that had mysteriously (to me) crept on after college. And I did. I lost over 40 pounds in 10 months, and I’m happy to say I did it the old-fashioned way by eating right + not too much and exercising regularly.
After years of treating my body poorly by either eating too much or too little or chugging Satan’s drink, Slim Fast, it never occurred to me to do it in an unhealthy way this time. I didn’t starve. I still treated myself. I ate what I wanted, but I kept it reasonable.
And I looked good. Everyone noticed. I was confident in my body for maybe the first time ever. And I realized my journey was less about losing weight than it was about just treating myself with the respect I deserved.
But the story didn’t end there. It turns out, that it is much easier to live the kind of life I was living when I was single and living with my parents. I had no where to be after work, and going to the gym was preferable to holing up in my childhood bedroom (these were dark times).
But then I met Kyle and things changed (don’t they always?). When he came to visit, we liked to cook — mostly delicious, delicious comfort food. And before we lived together, I wanted to maximize our time together, which meant I didn’t always make it to the gym.
I don’t regret those things. I love what we have together and those early experiences have shaped what our relationship looks like now. But “love chub” is real, and I gained some of that weight back as a consequence.
Do I have hard days? Yes. But I’m better equipped to handle them now. If I don’t feel great about myself, I run it out. I squeeze in a HIIT workout. I go to yoga. I don’t eat the whole pizza (OK, most of the time). I eat more plants. Maybe that translates to my physical appearance, but maybe not. Of course I want to be my healthiest, but my weight no longer defines me.
As Roberts says: “Strength doesn’t look a certain way; it feels a certain way.”
And baby, I’m strong as hell.