Friday, June 24, 2011

running chronicles // body image

In the effort to post more often, and in addition to my 52 posts in 52 weeks, I'm also going to start posting a feature called the 'running chronicles.'  It will be every other friday starting this week.  I'll try to focus on a different aspect of running with every post.  

Honest to goodness, I still feel like a novice at running, even though I've been running 3-4x weekly for over 2 years now.  There is still so much yet to learn.  I thought I'd kick this series off with a little post on body image.

A little while back my friend April was telling me about this girl (a friend of a friend who she met at a party or dinner or something) who was ranting and raving about why girls like running so much.  This girl insisted that girls run so they can become/stay skinny.  After further reflection on this thought (it didn't take much), my response to that would be "Duh!"    I will not deny that one of the reasons that I run is to feel good about my appearance.   I also run because it (usually) makes me feel like a million bucks!  It seems counterintuitive, but it seems that the more energy you expend running/working out, the more energy you have in general!

Now, I don't think I'll ever fit into a size 4.  I've been a size 8/10 since high school and it's taken awhile, but I'm fine with it now. 

Sometimes, when it seems that I'm surrounded by a sea of size zeros, twos, and fours (especially when they're eating chili cheese nachos and I'm snacking on some carrots), it's easy to feel bad about myself.  I think one of the battles that many women face is that which leads us to compare ourselves to one another, sizing ourselves up, and then obsessing over our own shortcomings ("My hair is too flat/oily/curly/poofy/etc"  "My stomach is too poochy"  "My eyes are too squinty" etc.).  I'll be the first to admit that sometimes in the car, when I'm wearing shorts, I'll look down at my legs and be unhappy with what I see...or sometimes I'll be sitting dpwn and feel the pooch of my belly (the 'bagel' as I like to call it) or my love handles protruding from their rightful places.

When you get down to the nitty gritty, the truth is that these thoughts provide a slippery slope to self centeredness and pride (the kind that causes us to look down on others when they don't measure up to our arbitrary standards).   I read an article in Women's Health earlier this spring about "Health Snobbery."  I am definitely a guilty party when it comes to making judgements about others' choices about their diet or exercise.  

It's truly a gift when you can wake up and feel good about how you look without worrying about comparing yourself to others, when you're truly comfortable in your own skin.  These are people that are encouraging to be around, who are able to forget themselves for more than just a moment at a time. They can give and receive compliments with much grace.  I can't say that I've fully gotten to this place yet, but I think by God's grace, I've traveled a long way in the right direction. 

Running is one of the things that I have come to love and I choose to see it as a gift (most days).  I have way more energy.  I have fewer cravings for unhealthy food. (note: I said fewer).  I generally feel better.   I have found it very helpful to make my diet full of heathful foods so that I fill up on those things rather than the foods that are bad for me.   For example, this morning for breakfast, I ate greek yogurt with granola and rasberries.  It was delicious, and rather than lamenting the number of calories or grams of fat, I know that the choice will help give me energy for my run later today. 

Finally, in the battle for a healthy body image, I will say that it's essential to remember what scripture says.  One of my favorite passages is Psalm 139.  The writer is David, and  part of his prayer is:

"You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body,
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it." (Psalm 139:13-14, emphasis mine)

Here are some more places to go:
Psalm 23:1; 45:11; 90:14;  Proverbs 31:30; Romans 12:1-2 (any other suggestions?)

There is SO much more that can be said about these things.  Books and magazines tackle this very subject.    What are your thoughts?