Weight can be a touchy subject. Like a lot of women, I struggled with body image as a teenager and through most of my 20s. It didn’t seem to matter how thin I got, I felt just as dissatisfied with my body whether I was a size 14 or a size 2. I was an obsessive about counting calories, working out, and weighing myself daily. Society tells women that small=feminine, and despite being 5’9 I still was fixated on an arbitrary (and impossible) weight that I thought I needed to be. I was never over weight; just a tall, “corn fed”, German girl, battling with my weight as it yo-yoed up and down. At 30, I went through a series of difficult, life altering events, and was struggling with major depression. It felt like I hit rock bottom, and I lost my motivation to do all of the active things that I used to enjoy. My weight quickly climbed to 170 lbs, the highest it had ever been (With the exception of when I was pregnant with my daughter).
With the encouragement of some very good friends, including my now boyfriend, I decided to start running again. I had a rough start, with plantar faciaiitis developing in my left foot. I followed a training plan to rebuild a 20 mile per week base, and every mile I ran those first few months was slow and painful. I was so focused on trying to get back into shape that I stopped weighing myself and stopped counting calories. I was focused on eating healthy foods to fuel my work-outs, and was excited to feel my body getting stronger.
One night, I met up with some of my running friends for a dinner/happy hour after work. We were enjoying greasy bar food and beers. The woman sitting across from me (that I just met); a beautiful, slender, blonde triathlete who was happily devouring a plate of loaded french fries loudly jokes, “I’ve decided to just be fat and lazy this winter, if I gain a ton of weight I can always race Athena class!” I know she didn’t mean anything by it, but the comment stung, because I knew I all ready met the weight standard for an “Athena” class runner; but I certainly was neither fat nor lazy.
After thinking about it for a while (like I do with most things) I came to the following conclusions:
- Her comment was not directed at me, and her intent was to make a joke….however foot in mouth it may have came out.
- I was happy and proud of myself, and the progress I was making with my running.
- Another person’s words should not change how I felt about myself.
- Athena was a bad bitch! Seriously, the Goddess of wisdom, courage, strength, and war….doesn’t get any badder than that!
- I was going to embrace my “inner goddess” and be proud to be labeled an Athena.
It took a conscious effort to shift to that mental state (embracing my inner goddess) at first, but at some point I began to actually believe it. (I guess it’s true when they say, “Fake it until you make it”) Not that I was an actual goddess (Psshh….that would be silly! 😉 ), but that my body was strong, healthy, and beautiful just the way it was. I didn’t care anymore that skinny jeans were not my friend….This Athena’s thick legs were able to carry me 26 point freaking 2 miles!
The crazy thing is, I finally learned to accept my body when I was at my heaviest. I didn’t even notice when I did start to lose weight; it came off very slowly. I had thrown out my scale, but found a warehouse pallet jack at work to weigh myself on after I noticed my clothes were getting baggier and people started asking me if I had lost weight. I was surprised when I realized, 6 months since I had last weighed myself, that I lost 15 lbs. Over the next year and a half, I lost 15 more. Between my weight loss, and the weight being increased to 165 lbs for the “Athena” class; I am no longer technically an Athena. However, I still try to embrace my inner goddess, since being an Athena played such a critical part in me learning to love my body. I even had the the owl she is often depicted with in paintings tattooed onto my right rib cage, to help remind me to keep my focus on keeping my body strong and healthy while I run, regardless of what I weigh!
How has running helped improve your body image? Do you have any running related tattoos that inspire you?