I’m in a pretty body-image fighting mood today, and I’m compelled to write about it. Which is strange, because writing about things such as “weight” and “body image” bring up an entangled ball of raw emotions that I generally like to keep scribbled away in little black Moleskine, tucked between entries entitled “Baking Boners- Put It Away!” and “Horrible Poetry about Rocks and Trees”.
Writing about, nay –even reading about– body image makes me uncomfortable. Negative body image is a battle I fight daily, and though I know I am not alone in these struggles with body perfection/perception/preconceived notions/societal pressures, I still pretend to put a smile on my face and exclaim “I love my body! I don’t care about how I look! Yes, these tri shorts are an XL and they are still snug and it doesn’t bother me in the slightest!”
Those assertions are sometimes true. Sometimes, I feel such pride and gratitude in this strong, powerful, sexy, curvy and imperfect body of mine. Sometimes, I feel shame, frustration and jealousy. Mostly, I feel all of those things at the same time.
Which leads me to my story:
This morning, my roommate showed me her new clothes from Stitch Fix. They looked incredible on her! I was inspired. So I went to sign up, and the site (naturally, as it picks out clothing for you and sends you your size) asks for your height, weight and measurements.
I have had a tenuous relationship with the scale since my stepmom thought it was a great idea to put me on the Atkins diet in 8th grade. From 8th grade through high school, my brother and I had to “weigh in” every week and record our weights on a chalkboard, prominently displayed for all to see on the entrance to the kitchen. We did Atkins, a version of the Zone, and we ALWAYS counted calories. She even created a weekly excel spreadsheet (laminated it, of course) so we could log our calories and activity calories. We got rewards for losing weight and punishments for gaining.
I actually remember thinking that the only way I could get the woman to like me would be if I lost enough weight and had, what she called, “a belly-ring quality belly”. She would judge my stomach and tell me if it looked good enough to wear a bikini/belly ring. In retrospect, I can’t imagine a more screwed up thing to do to a teenage girl.
So, over ten years later, the scale and I are hesitant acquaintances. But I did it. I weighed myself. I am one heavy, heavy person. I’m trying hard not to let that matter and destroy my self worth for the day, but it’s still a struggle.
However, it provides for good reflection about what I’ve learned in the past year.
1) I have a large frame, a lot of muscle and some organs. With the amount of muscle/bone/tissue I have, it would be unhealthy for me to lose a bunch of weight. Some, sure. Not a lot. This is why I have no problem racing Athena, because I will probably never be under the 160# threshold and it is ludicrous to compete with someone else who probably weighs 50-80 lbs lighter than I do. I just wish there were more competitors, and also maybe some sponsors (hint hint, I need a new bike!)
2) I am ridiculously strong. Pushing 320+ watts on the bike at RST, did 6 repeats of Hawk Hill yesterday and I’m not even sore today, ran 10+ miles last Sunday and I’m doing it all again this weekend. Last year I officially completed 6 triathlons and 2 century rides and did all training for my first half Ironman (Tahoe was cancelled, but I’m doing St.George this year). I did it in pink compression socks and spandex and it felt great.
3) Starvation mode is a real thing, people. This happened to me last year– I was restricting so many calories and doing so much exercise that I started gaining weight and my basal metabolic rate tanked. Not going to happen again. Also because I quite enjoy making and eating food of all kinds.
4) Sports have completely separated my scale weight from anything about performance and strength, mostly. Last year, I stopped weighing myself. I started caring about fueling and getting stronger. I will continue to care about these things, and only really think about trimming weight for performance instead of dress size. This is what dudes do, apparently. I am (in this case) taking a page out of the guy-handbook.
5) I’m not running, swimming, biking, climbing, backpacking, hiking or dancing because I am trying to get smaller and impress people. I’m running, swimming, biking, climbing, backpacking, hiking and dancing because I LOVE IT. I got the worst backhanded compliment the other day– someone was so proud of what I’ve achieved because I’ve worked so hard to finally look so good. Eff that. I work hard because I like to work hard. I like to push limits, take risks and challenge myself. I like to get aggressive during a swim start, bomb down hills at 45 mph+ on the bike, run/dance to horrible pop music, and climb while making unfortunate orgasm-like sighs because it hurts so good and makes me laugh. I’m pretty proud of me.
I am finishing my Stich Fix profile because I want some interesting new clothes. I don’t really have much of a style and I would like one. Plus, I’m job interviewing and I need career clothes besides running tights and race T-s.
I am an American consumer, hear me roar!
In general, I feel pretty jazzed about this body. It’s the one I have, and it does pretty incredible things. I’m just trying to get my brain/mindset on board with evaluating what it does, instead of how I *think* it looks.
That is all.