This Was Not an Easy Post to Write
I started running two years ago, during the spring of my senior year in high school. Since by that point I’d already gotten into college and was basically done with high school, I had a lot of free time on my hands. I was feeling frustrated about a lot of things, particularly the way I looked, and I thought that running would be exactly what I needed. It would be an opportunity to clear my head, to get stronger physically, and hopefully help me drop some of the weight I gained from stress-eating my way through college applications. In late April, I signed myself up for a 5K that was scheduled for the first weekend of June, and I told myself I would need to be able to cross that finish line standing by race day.
You could say I crossed that finish line and just kept right on running. Almost two years after I registered for that race, running has become more a part of me than I could possibly have imagined. It’s brought me joy and a sense of accomplishment. I love it. When I signed up for that first 5K, I saw running as a way of achieving other goals, but now running is a goal in and of itself. I don’t run to lose weight or because I want bigger calf muscles. I run for the sheer joy of it, because I can’t imagine waking up in the morning and NOT running.
But the truth of the matter is, I still haven’t lost that weight I originally wanted to get rid of. In fact, I’ve put on weight since I’ve started running. A substantial amount of it. This is not necessarily a bad thing — I don’t think that women need to be super skinny or that there’s certain weight that a person ought to be — but right now I’m not happy with the way I look. My clothes don’t fit me right and I just don’t feel good. And I want to do something about it.
Clearly exercise is not the problem here, since I run 25 to 35 miles a week and cross train on top of that. So I’ve decided to start being more aware of the food I eat. This is really hard at college, when unhealthy foods abound and my dining options are basically limited to the gross food that’s available in the cafeteria (Not a whole lot of fresh fruit and healthy whole grains, that’s for sure.) But I think that if I can plan out what I’m going to eat at the beginning of the day, and STICK to that plan, I can avoid temptation. I already do eat pretty healthily — lots of salads, yogurt and fruit for breakfast, more than 8 cups of water a day and never any soda, etc. — but I have a serious sweet tooth and can’t say no to cookies, even though the desserts in the dining hall aren’t even very good. So in addition to planning my meals for the day, I’m going to stop eating dessert of any kind from the dining hall since they’re just not worth it (but I’ll keep dark chocolate in my room to satisfy my sweet tooth!) and also give up fancy coffee drinks. I’m also going to eat fresh fruit throughout the day and not cover it in peanut butter, which is my current habit.
I’m also going to seriously commit to weight lifting and core-strengthening, something I’ve always tried to do but usually give up on. I’m going to do 10 minutes of abs work EVERY MORNING when I wake up and lift weights at the gym once a week. I know that this will make me a better runner as well as helping me fit back into my jeans, so that’s motivation as well.
Talking about weight and body image is always tricky, especially because the media portrayal of how women ought to look is so damaging psychologically. (That’s a link to the website of the movie MissRepresentation, by the way. If you haven’t seen it, you should.) A lot of the time it’s hard to distinguish what you actually want from what it feels like society expects from you. I want to be clear that I don’t hate my body — my body has done amazing things, like running a marathon — and I am so so grateful for it. I just think that right now, I don’t look or feel my best, and I want to work on changing that in a way that’s healthy and safe.
Did your body image affect your decision to start running? Have you ever tried to lose weight? What do you think of the issue of how girls’ body image is affected by the media?