I apologize in advance for today’s blog entry.
You all are used to happy, snarky, funny T-Rex, and that’s not really what you’ll get today. Today I’m going to write about something that has plagued me for the better part of my life, because, well, I feel like it.
I hate my body.
There. I said it. I hate my body. I especially hate my body now – this new one I have. For as long as I can remember, I have struggled with severe body image issues. I distinctly remember sitting in the car when I was eight and lifting my legs up slightly when I was wearing shorts and riding like that the whole way so that my thighs wouldn’t flatten out and look fatter than I thought they already did. I was never a fat or even slightly chubby child. I didn’t weigh over 100 pounds until I was 16. If anything, I was made fun of for being too skinny, but I never saw it that way.
Nonetheless, I would say my body type has always been considered “athletic” rather than thin. Even though I’ve always been thin, I am muscular too, and I put on muscle easily. My high school boyfriend referred to me as Hugh Douglas (former Philadelphia Eagles lineman) because my arm muscles were so big. People have asked me all my life if I play soccer because of how my legs look. My physical therapist last year told me my legs are “too big” to be the legs of a “real” distance runner – they are soccer player legs.
But this is not a discussion about hurtful things people have said to me, because to be honest, I’ve never cared all that much about that. Deep in my brain, I know I am still very thin, and no one in their right mind would say otherwise.
Lately, I have struggled tremendously with what I would almost call an identity crisis. If I thought I hated my body before, I had another thing coming. Since the spring, I have put on maybe 10 pounds or so, give or take. For the past few months, I have tried with varying degrees of commitment to lose that weight and get back to the body I had when I didn’t really work out at all – still pretty toned just naturally, but thinner, daintier, more soft. The problem? My body isn’t dainty anymore. It’s not soft. It’s still somewhat thin, I suppose, but it’s solid. I can lose a few pounds, but weight that would have fallen off of me previously is stubbornly clinging to me now no matter what I seem to do. Almost like it’s muscle or something.
And I hate it.
I’ve been trying to make peace with the fact that it just might not be possible for me to weigh what I used to weigh and for my body to look like what it used to look like. But I can’t. I work out 5+ times a week, even more hardcore now that I am training for triathlons. The muscle is there. It keeps growing. Yes, there’s a few pounds of fat that could definitely stand to go, but I am starting to have to face the fact that a lot of what I’ve gained is muscle. My thighs are firm, but they’re bigger. They have to be, to push me and my bike up hills and to help me run 26.2 miles. My shoulders and arms are bigger because they are helping me pull my body through the water and are helping me stay upright on my bike.
But I don’t want bigger. I don’t want firm. I want thinner. Daintier. Soft.
I know that that’s not popular right now. I know I’m supposed to be jumping on the bandwagon on Pinterest and Tumblr and shouting out “Strong is the new skinny!” and posting pictures of super ripped Nike models on this blog because that’s what I am supposed to want to look like. But I don’t want to be super ripped. I want to be skinny. Not death-skinny, just skinny. I want to look like myself again. And myself isn’t big, fit, or ripped.
I know that I don’t see myself the way other people see me. I know that I have Body Dysmorphic Disorder, along with a host of other issues that I may or may not address one day. But the point is that even though I should be proud of the body I have, I’m not. It’s an unintended consequence (notice that I did not use the word “benefit”) of working to achieve the goals I want to achieve, like running a marathon in every state, competing in triathlons, etc.
So what’s the point of this? Why do you care?
The point is that every single day, I contemplate the idea of quitting running. Quitting biking, quitting training, quitting all of it. I know I am thinner, softer, etc when I do not work out, when all I do is eat when I feel hungry and not worry about the rest of it because I’m never starving since my metabolism is normal. I could just go back to walking my dog, doing yoga, and running 3 miles or so when I feel like it. I just can’t seem to make peace with the fact that I might never be my “normal” weight again. That even though my waist is the same size or smaller, my thighs are bigger, so my old jeans don’t fit the same.
Every day I look in the mirror and I hate what I see. And some days, like today, I don’t know how much more of it I can take. Why am I even doing this? I don’t even really like working out. As we’ve established about a thousand times, I like the travel, the social aspects, pretty much every part of marathons and triathlons except the actual activities. But then I think the following:
1. What about my goals? I want to run a marathon in all 50 states. Am I really going to let the fact that my body is becoming too fit stop me from that?
2. What about my blog? The friends I’ve met along the way? How do I just walk away from all of that?
3. How can I tell my future children to pursue their dreams when I gave up on mine?
4. Am I really going to let the fucked up part of my brain make my decisions at the age of 26?
I wish I could tell you the answers to those questions, but I can’t, because I simply don’t know. I am having a nutritionist look over my food and activity logs and hopefully she will tell me what, if anything, I am doing wrong. Am I eating too much? Not enough? Working out too much? Not enough? Something has to give. And if the answer is just that I’ve put on too much muscle and I’ll never look like what I used to again? Well, I don’t know what I’m going to do with that information.
I suppose I feel a little backwards because I know this isn’t how I’m supposed to feel. I’m supposed to be proud of myself and the fitness goals I’ve achieved, like new mothers say they are proud of their bodies for how strong they are during child birth even though they know their bodies are changed forever. (Side note: I hope all new mothers are that confident, but I doubt it. I am particularly interested in hearing from y’all in the comments.) I’m supposed to be screaming “Strong is the new skinny!” maniacally and praying to God that He magically makes the gap between my thighs bigger. I’m supposed to be confident, because after all, my clothes all say size 0 or 2 and XS, so what do I possibly have to complain about?
But that’s the funny thing about self-esteem and body image. As Katt Williams would say, “How did I mess up your self-esteem? It’s the esteem of your motherfucking self, bitch!” And he’s right. It’s my self-esteem. My body image. I don’t know what I really aimed to accomplish with this post. I guess I’ve just been feeling overwhelmed lately and more or less on the verge of a breakdown about it on a daily basis. I don’t know what to do. Do I quit working out? Do I just try to push those feelings aside? Every day I answer each of those questions differently.
And uh, yeah, before you ask, I’m obviously in therapy. As if there was ever any doubt.
LEAVE A COMMENT: Have you ever had a body image issue that stopped you from doing something you wanted to do? How did you handle it?
Also, it’s weird if you leave comments about me having a nice body, so there’s no need for that. I’m really not fishing for compliments.
UPDATE 12/14/12: It was brought to my attention by a reader that this post may come across as saying that there is something wrong with being a muscular, fit woman, which was never the message I intended to relay. The point of this post is simply to acknowledge that, despite being what most people would consider very thin, I struggle with body image issues just like most other people and I am trying to wrap my mind around how intense training has changed how I look. We all have our own ideal picture in our mind of what we would like to look like, and that can be damaging and dangerous. Most importantly, our ideals are never the same. I firmly believe that everyone should find happiness in their own healthy size and shape, and I wish nothing more than to find that one day. I consider it my obligation to you to be 100% honest in my writing, and this is a very painful but honest look at a part of my life that I often try to ignore. I am happy to communicate with any readers individually regarding your feelings on this post, as I know they probably span a wide spectrum.