Monday, July 28, 2014

Running, Weight Loss, and Body Image

I never felt fat until I lost weight.

There's a lot running has done for me. But one thing running has done that I need to keep in check is make me very conscious of weight gain and loss. 

I'm not talking about the major weight loss that came with eating better and exercising more in all sorts of ways.  I'm talking about the niggling five-pound swing that can make a huge difference on a run. The lighter you are in general, the faster you feel on your feet, and the quicker those PRs come. 

At least, that's what I thought. 

When I was overweight, I never obsessed about the scale. I gleefully bought larger clothes until the spectre of diabetes and high blood pressure (both of which run in my family) motivated me towards better health decisions.

But there's a huge gap between better health decisions and better thinking.  And it's easy to fall into that gap, to take in Photoshopped images and think they are attainable with just one more mile, one more workout, with just more effort. If I wasn't as sleek as people in magazines, it had to be my fault, right?  I just wasn't trying hard enough, running enough, or doing enough. 

I was getting to the point of being hyper-critical about my own body, pinching this pad of fat here, or hating that my stomach didn't look like a "runner's stomach." I started taking cell phone pics to see if I could detect weight gains or losses. 

But recently, I was at a hotel where the mirrors allowed me to see not only my front reflection, but my back reflection. This should have terrified me. I'd been travelling, not eating right, and exercising in spurts.

Strangely enough, seeing my own bare back in the mirror did not disgust me. I realized that had to have gotten over a whole lot of body hatred for that to happen. Being body positive is work, and I am doing it, staring down the societal demons that tell me to dislike my own flesh.

The crux: my body hatred got worse after weight loss, not better. 

It is so much easier to find fault when you have had what is deemed success. So much easier to see every bit of flesh as something flawed to tame. 

The kicker: I really love exercise now, and don't want to spoil that joy by having it become a means to punish an unruly body.

The truth: Hotel mirrors will reveal all, but it is up to me to embrace what is revealed.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for writing about this, Allison. I don't know you, but we're somehow FB friends, probably through poetry circles, and this post really resonates for me. I lost a lot of weight five years ago, and I have noticed this exact phenomenon. Like, before I used to look at myself and think, "I look pretty hot for a fat girl." and now I obsess about every pound and jiggle. I hate it! I'm currently working on addressing this issue, but it's ongoing. Thanks for articulating what I've been thinking about for a few years now, but never know what it was consciously until you put it into words for me. I love writers! xo, and good thoughts for you on your work towards physical as well as mental health!

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