Thursday, November 5, 2009

On Learning to Love my Body

I am a woman who has issues with her body. SURPRISE! Find me a woman who, at one point or another, has not obsessed over a jiggly bit, a stretch mark, or an oh-my-god-why-is-my-upper-arm-flapping-like-that moment. It is, unfortunately, more common than it should be. We constantly judge ourselves based on flaws that are probably imperceptible. We compare ourselves to other people and determine our own worth based on how pretty we are, how thin, tall, muscular, fast, athletic, whatever. It is so very hard to look in a mirror and just be happy.

I am also a woman with a memory like a steel trap. When I was 13, the boy I was OMGSOINLOVE with grabbed one of my thighs and told me, "You'd better start working out!" When I was 16, I overheard the boy I was OMGSOINLOVE with say "Sharon's great... from the waist up." And then, after getting that incredibly useful theatre degree, there was the casting director who sat me down and told me, "You're really talented, but I just don't know how to cast you. You're too heavy to play the ingenue and not heavy enough to play the character roles."

What did I take away from all this? Well, first of all, I learned that there are apparently only two types of women in theatre, and I wasn't one of them. Second, I learned that I should probably never wear shorts.

Over the past years, I've struggled a lot with these and other comments, rolling around and resonating in my head. Going to a store to try on clothes could cause a panic attack. Going to the beach was a major source of anxiety.

However, since I've started running more and more, besting my previous race times and seeing myself improve in fitness and ability, I've realized something -- I may not always love my body, but I certainly respect it.

These thighs? Sure, they're meaty. But they are powerful. They carry me further than a lot of people could go, and while they may not be the sleekest models, they are strong and reliable.

My body may not be an aesthetic "ideal," but it is a mechanical marvel. In order for it to do all that I'm asking of it over the next year, and beyond, I'm just going to have to show it a lot of respect. Even the jiggly bits.


  1. First of all, I want to print this out and carry it around in my pocket and pull it out every time I look in the mirror at the muffin tire forming around my midsection.

    Second, this is enlightening. People, woman, me, whoever do not spend enough time thinking about the oh so majestic parts of our bodies. I am now going to start respecting my meaty thighs, they do support me all day. And I am now a follower. I love your blog girl!

  2. Picking up running has definitely been one of the best things for my body image (the other was spending some time in a less fat-phobic country). I've lost a couple of inches and a few pounds, but the best part is that never before had I appreciated what my body could do. It's hard to hate your body when it carries you miles and miles, when it surpasses the assumptions you had about its capabilities.

    Of course, now I'm curious as to what my body could do without all this excess weight. :)

    Great post! It really resonates with me.

  3. jbethke, It's nice when those things are a bonus rather than the goal, though, isn't it? "Wow, I can run 13.1 miles without stopping... and my butt looks great!"

  4. I loved your post. Runners come in all different shapes and sizes. Running WILL change your life. Good luck and KEEP RUNNING!

  5. Great post - and very true about the body image issues that plague women.


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