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On Body Confidence

July 8, 2011

After spending the large majority of 4th of July weekend in a bathing suit, inevitably the topic of body confidence crossed my mind quite a few times.

I am not a very confident person, in all aspects of life. But, I wouldn’t say I suffer from low self confidence either. I tend to fall in the middle: some great days, some not-so-great. Body confidence in particular is not a huge issue to me, because I try to take a pretty laid back approach. Sure, I care about how I look and typically want to look my best, but stressing out over whether or not my arms look flabby or if my thighs are touching can be so mind-consuming and exhausting, so I try my best to avoid it or stop myself if I go down that path.

Instead, I like to focus on what my body can do versus how my body looks. Running helps immensely in this area!

These bulky thighs? They can run upwards of 60 miles a week.

These muscular calves? They powered me to a 3:04 marathon.

These big arms? I can (almost) do real pushups! πŸ™‚

I might not have a 6-pack, or be able to fit into my skinny jeans, but I just ran a MARATHON!

See what I mean? When you start to focus on all the things your body is capable of, the little extra chub or crunches you wish you did become a bit less significant than those goals your body allows you to achieve via running. Or swimming or biking or yoga or dancing or whatever it is you love to do!

Time for some more honesty.

I currently weigh about 5 pounds more than I did during college. On my 5’4 frame, I think it shows..particularly when comparing pictures. I contribute this to largely to sitting at a desk for 8-10 hours a day, rather than walking miles around campus to and from class and activities. I’m still running the same (if not more), and eating pretty well. Part of me thinks I should work on getting back down to that weight, but I still feel good now. I am running well, I am enjoying life, and 95% of days I feel good with how I look. I have bad days where I feel like a zillion pounds. But I try to think big picture: Will 5 pounds of weight loss really make a difference in my confidence? Not if I have to deprive myself and go crazy to get there.

I remember a point in high school where I struggled really badly with body confidence. Wasn’t everyone super emo then anyway? I remember planning my meals all day to avoid eating certain foods and having my mom prepare separate foods for me. Or coming home one day after track practice and doing the elliptical because I wanted to work a little harder. I was also obsessed with what other people thought about how I looked, despite wearing a size 0. How miserable! And guess what….my running wasn’t so hot and I subsequently landed two back-to-back stress fractures.

See what I mean? Why place all this stress and worry on how you look, when you’re just fine how you are. I found that once I cut the negative self talk and got healthy, I started improving my running times and my confidence (about my body and my life) skyrocketed. I was a much happier person inside, and much more fun to be around. I wish I could take back those years where I spent all that energy feeling bad about myself and applied it elsewhere.

I see so many people (many, many friends!) stress out about how they look or losing those last five pounds. I am all for doing what makes you feel best about yourself, but at the end of the day…are you happy? Or are you driving yourself crazy? How else can you drive self-confidence in ways beyond your weight? What does your body as it currently stands allow you to do? This is why I am always encouraging my friends to take up running or a new athletic hobby…it’s the endorphins or something.

Everyone knows you take note of so much more about yourself than others do. What did your boss wear to work today? I can’t recall, but I can sure list out my own outfits this whole week! πŸ™‚

I’m not perfect, I have good days and bad days with body confidence…but I feel like the bad days come a lot more rarely when I remember the idea that what your body can do is so much more important for your life and well-being than the miniscule aspects of your weight and how you look. It might not seem that way when you’re standing in a bikini in front of dozens of people, but remember that!

What are your thoughts on body confidence? Do you feel better at a certain weight? Do you judge your body confidence on athletic achievements?

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. July 8, 2011 8:30 am

    This is an excellent, excellent post. I think many of us struggle with some post-college lbs (hellloooo desk job). I’m definitely about 5-10lbs heavier than I was during my senior track season, BUT I’m also getting my period regularly, running more my mileage than I ever ran in college, and haven’t been getting injured, so all-in-all I think that little bit ‘o extra is doing the body good.

    But still…sometimes I look at photos or myself in the mirror and feel bigger than I’d like to be. I think every female experiences this at some point. But focusing on what these muscles and bones and tendons can DO rather than how they look always makes me feel much stronger and confident. Again, glad to know I’m not alone in feeling the way I do sometimes.

    See you tomorrow morning??

  2. July 8, 2011 9:40 am

    I love this post, Lindsay. I was on the lake this past weekend and a lot of the girls I was with don’t run (or don’t exercise) and I was like “why are they skinnier than me?!?” Or conversely, I think, “how do I run a good bit and still don’t have that coveted six pack or skinny arms?!?” (I have big arms — blaming my dad’s genes.)

    But, then I remind myself, like you suggested, that my body is able to do things that those other people can’t do. When I focus on what my body does for me, I even eat better, because I want to fuel it properly. Its hard, but I’m trying to change my focus on weight/food from “being skinny” to “being fit and in the best shape I can be in so I can be the best runner/medical student/person I can be.” My meals more revolve around trying not to eat more rather than fueling my body for running, and I know I need to change that. I should probably also stop eating dessert as much as I do, but, I mean, what is life without a little frozen yogurt, cupcakes, cookies, etc? A sad life hahaha.

    Anyways, thanks for the post. It served as good reminder to me as I was feeling a little hefty myself after my 3 weeks at home indulging myself. I prob weight 5 lbs more than I did 3 weeks ago, but I enjoyed my time with my family.

  3. July 8, 2011 11:21 am

    Great post. Even though I’m still wearing the same clothing sizes as I did in high school, I’m definitely 10 pounds heavier than when I started college (I’m the same age as you). And while I usually feel happy about what I see in the mirror, remembering these two things helps me veer out of negative thought territory:

    a. Muscle weighs more than flab. and b. Cameras are oftentimes evil! (Seriously, I really believe they add extra pounds sometimes.)

    With the added muscle mass and high mileage I’ve been putting in over the past few years, I know I’ll never be back to the number I weighed six years ago. I feel a million times better physically, so I’m okay with it.

  4. July 8, 2011 11:25 am

    Great, great post! As female runners, it’s easy to fall into the “if only I looked more like Kara Goucher, then I’d be faster/happier/etc. etc.,…” trap, you know? But one of my favorite things about running is that we come in all shapes and sizes, and what we’ve got makes us the runners we are. I was a gymnast for 10 years, and being in a leotard EVERY DAY really did a number on my body confidence for a long time. Just in the last couple years I’ve finally stopped the more negative thoughts about my body and focused on all of the awesome things it does for me. I love being a healthy, happy runner. And weight doesn’t really factor into that equation too much! πŸ™‚

  5. July 8, 2011 2:01 pm

    I think this is a wonderful post. As a competitive figure skater before I became a runner body image has always been somewhat of an issue. I totally agree that focusing on what your body is capable of doing instead of obsessing over slight “imperfections” is a much healthier outlook and one that makes you happier. Same outlook I try to follow, but not always easy.

    On another note I think I saw you running on Harlem Hill yesterday! You were going the other direction from me!

  6. July 8, 2011 3:25 pm

    I love love love this post!!! I’ve been ‘trying’ to lose the same 10 pounds my whole life, but truthfully, I’m happy with where I’m at. My body has carried me through 3 marathons : )

    Thanks for pointing out that runners come in all shapes and sizes and 5 pounds is not going to make or break it for you as a runner.

  7. July 8, 2011 3:31 pm

    This is an amazing post, Lindsay! I see myself in a similar place – a little heavier than I was in college, but also running better, happy, and in a much better place in terms of my relationship with food. There are some days I struggle with feeling good about my body, but I’ve learned to embrace it as much as possible. I’m honestly not sure bathing suits will ever be totally comfortable for me to wear, but if I can feel good about myself on most days, I think that’s pretty good. When I feel myself starting to get stuck in the trap of “what if I just lost a few pounds…” I remember that there is SO much more to life than obsessing over weight, and as long as I’m eating and exercising in ways that keep me happy and feeling good, I should let my weight fall where it naturally falls.
    Thanks so much for sharing this, and I would take a 3:04 marathon over losing 5-10 lbs ANY day! You are amazing and so inspiring!

  8. July 8, 2011 9:20 pm

    Great post! I always thought about addressing this issue on my own blog, but it’s hard to say that you lack self confidence about your body image when 90% of the world looks at you and says, “You’re so skinny!” I found myself wondering last week how I can run 40 miles per week and still feel fat…but I think women as a whole just have those days. I haven’t stepped on a scale in months, but I do think my weight is up a little…I’m hesitant to admit that I’m a little scared to see what the number on the scale would be, but I mainly stay away because the number on the scale doesn’t define me. I ran a 3:19 marathon at this weight, have never had any health issues (more information that you ever need to know, but my period has always been like clockwork, and I do think that’s a good indicator of health), and the dresses I just wore over the weekend were size 0. While I think I would feel better about myself if I lost a few pounds (like…three), I’ve never ever thought about dieting (while marathon training?? let’s be realistic here…), and my body is happy at this weight.

    It’s great (well, not great, but comforting) to see that so many other runners who I admire and posted above (and I think look very fit!) have the same issues. We’re human, is what it comes down to.

  9. July 8, 2011 11:56 pm

    Lindsay, this was a great post and so well written. You touched on how every girl feels at some point or another. You have such a positive spin on it to think of what your body can do! And your body can do such amazing this. You have already run an unbelievable marathon time (which I strive to obtain, but am not sure I can do!) and you have been training really well and doing strong workout, so I’m sure this year you will blow all of us away even more! I definitely have lacked confidence in the past, but as I’ve grown up, I have become better at feeling fine with the way I am. I grew up figure skating, which is probably one of the most body conscious sports out there. I tried to not let myself get caught up in it, but it is hard to not let the thoughts of others permeate into your. Running is such a good outlet and better sport that promotes strength. I hope to keep getting stronger and faster! And maybe some day as fast as you!!

Trackbacks

  1. And it Begins…Marathon Training « Run, Lindsay, Run!
  2. Happy 1st Birthday, Run Linds Run! « Run, Lindsay, Run!

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