Weight And The Accompanying Head Games

From Gina:
In 2005, I was a senior at DeSales University. It was my final cross-country season, and my final year of collegiate racing. I had once again made it to the NCAA DIII Cross-Country Championships and had high hopes of placing top 10. I was racing well, I was strong, and I was hungry. Race day came, and all of that changed when I toed the starting line. Enter: self-doubt and the feeling of being inadequate.

There were 300 or so women running strides to help calm their nerves and prep their bodies. Everyone was wearing butt huggers, crop tops, and gloves (like those little gloves were ever going to keep us warm in late November).

I watched as they ran back and forth and couldn’t get over their size. I felt like a mammoth compared to them. My legs and butt probably doubled most of theirs. My chest was barreled out, and I had hips.

How the hell was I going to be top 10 when I had to carry an extra 20 pounds? These little waifs were going to fly by while I hoofed along at a glacial pace.

I suppose this would be a good time to note that I’m not a ‘tiny’ hater. I realize that some women have a naturally small frame/size. But it was easy to pick out which girls were sick and which were naturally small people. Eating disorders are rampant in college athletics no matter how well someone tries to cover it up. Anyhow, back to my story.

The gun went off and the tinies took the lead. I put my head down and settled into a pace that was comfortable for me. It was a bummer to see them take off so fast, and it messed with my head even more.

About a mile in, I looked up to see a few of the leaders coming back. I was surprised. These light things should be further ahead, at least I thought. I felt fine. In fact, I felt good. Seeing thinner girls coming back to me boosted my adrenaline… and made the self-doubt start to disappear.

Before I knew it, I was passing them. They were spent! Those sinewy muscles were petering out, and my large-and-in-charge thighs were just getting started.

With this bit of mental relief and new thought process, I muscled my way to seventh place. I realized that the weight and the strength I was embarrassed of was actually what I needed to help propel me. The extra pounds were a benefit, not a hindrance. This was one of the moments in my life where I learned to embrace what I was given and use it for all it was worth.

Shortly thereafter, I named my thighs “Pratt & Whitney.” Pratt & Whitney is a company that builds the turbojet engines found on many military and commercial aircraft. “More miles per hour with P&W power” is a Pratt & Whitney slogan.

Though weight and size issues still pop in mind from time to time, this one situation made a huge impression on how I looked at things then and even now.

From Liza:
I can’t quite remember the first time I thought about dropping a few pounds to run faster. It was long after I knew the exact number of calories in a tablespoon of peanut butter, but a good decade or two before I read Matt Fitzgerald’s book, Racing Weight: How to Get Lean For Peak Performance. “Body weight is anathema to the distance runner because the runner must move his or her body against gravity… with every stride. A study by researchers at the University of Georgia… found that a body-weight increase of 5 percent reduced performance by 5 percent in a 12-minute test run.” (p.16) What is the calculation? Every five pounds lost equals 10 seconds per mile faster? Something like that, right? And yes, yes, YES, obviously whether you’re losing muscle or fat is important, and how fast you lose the weight, and what you’re eating and blah, blah, blah. But like every American female, runner and non-runner, I’ve thought that things would be better if I were a pound or five lighter. Truth be told, up until this April, it’d be impossible to tease apart my desire to lose weight to run faster and my desire to lose weight to look a certain way in running clothes. Anybody not have one or two friends who are currently trying to lose weight to run faster or look faster? My weight epiphany didn’t happen during a race like Gina’s. It happened after a race. I ran the Marathon des Sables this year, and the seven-day stage race eradicated my desire to look like a good runner. MdS requires you to carry all of your food for a week, a minimum of 2,000 calories each day. The less food you carry, the lighter your pack, so I carried little more than that race-required minimum. And even at five feet tall and 100-ish pounds, 2,000 calories a day means you’ll lose weight when you’re running 18 to 50 miles a day.

2015 Marathon des Sables - Stage 5 - Liza Howard

Liza Howard (right) racing Stage 5 of MdS. Photo: Kirsten Kortebein

I’m not sure how much I weighed at the end of MdS, but I remember standing in front of the hotel-room mirror in Morocco thinking, This is not pretty. It was like a switch had been flipped. After 20 years of wanting to have a flat stomach and a thin waist, and evaluating every race photo based on magazine cover-model criteria, I didn’t care anymore. I didn’t want to look lean, or sinewy, or slender. I wanted curves and padding. So I fed myself well until I had some again.

Runners World cover - July 2010

Trail Runner cover - March 2015

Competitor So Cal cover - November 2008

The shift in mindset has been both liberating and frustrating because, as Matt Fitzgerald does say, “body weight is anathema to the distance runner.” And I am currently trying to drop four of the many pounds I gained after MdS to set myself up for success at the Houston Marathon this January and, more importantly, the Bandera 100k the week before. (No, it is not a good idea to PR at a marathon the week after you try to PR at a 100k.) Because regardless of whether or not I’m fixated on how I look in running clothes anymore, I know I’ll have an easier time meeting my running goals if I’m not lugging an extra four pounds around with me for 88 miles. I’ve raced at a lot of different weights through my twenties, thirties, and into my forties–and through two pregnancies–and I do race faster when I weigh 97 to 100 pounds. (I’m five feet tall, and that’s a healthy BMI for a short person.) Still, it’s hard to be disciplined now that the weight loss is tied only to race performance and not attractiveness. Vanity is such a nice motivator. Pam, what say you?

From Pam:
Growing up, my mom lived in old gardening clothes, tennis gear, and sweat suits, and I don’t even think she owned make-up, so a sense of vanity was never deeply instilled in me. As such, I made it to age 34 before I desperately wanted to lose weight or look a different way. That was the year I started competing in more of the “high profile” ultras rather than just at my local races. And as the competition got stiffer, I also noticed it got a lot leaner. I was especially hit hard by this realization at my first Western States in 2010 where I finished 10th. As I stood up front with the other nine ladies at the awards ceremony, I felt like a huge beast. I made the top 10 by the skin of my teeth and felt like if I wanted to place higher, I needed to be thinner. Every Runner’s World article that mentioned 2.5 seconds per pound per mile and other such reasons why getting thinner would make you faster only intensified my obsession with the scale.

By 2012 I got to my lowest ultrarunning weight ever and I had a big PR at the IAU 100k World Championships. But my weight was totally irrelevant when it came to Western States that year. Hypothermia, asthma, and water retention resulted in a 29-hour finish which put me solidly in the bottom 10, not the top 10–those issues didn’t care that I was at my ‘perfect’ race weight. As many people know, that experience really motivated me for 2013 and I not only put in a lot of running miles leading up to Western States, but also a lot of time in the weight room. Ironically, I was actually one pound heavier the year I won than my rookie year when I felt like a fatty. Certainly, that experience helped me realize that performance was linked to a lot more than just a number on the scale and that overall fitness and body composition were much better measures to focus on.

Still, it is very hard for me not to play the comparison game and feel disproportionately large, particularly as more and more of the competition becomes young, nulliparous women. (They have waists and no hip spread–how can I compete?) And I can’t deny that part of getting in shape and feeling fit for me means dropping a little of that extra padding. I am just getting back into the swing of training after a 10-week hiatus, and so like Liza, I am currently trying to lose four pounds. Or maybe five. ;)

From Gina:
There are times for the kind of weight loss that we can benefit from health- and running-performance-wise, but weight loss also has downfalls. Finding your ‘perfect’ race weight comes with trial and error, and in fact, may not exist. Being heavier for one race might be more helpful as compared to being lighter at another, like your examples, Pam. But at the end of the day, I try to keep in mind that my body is shaped a certain way for a reason. I try to embrace what I have, use my strengths, and build on my weaknesses. I think many of us are cognizant of our weight and how it affects performance (and also how we look), but it is important not to get too obsessive about it. I find myself thinking about it more than I’d like, but I also try to use self-talk to help me snap back to reality. Managing your thoughts (though super hard at times) and loving your body is the best advice I can give to help anyone struggling with weight issues.

From Liza:
My journals and training have always been filled with weight-loss goals. It’s embarrassing and tiresome. I hope the switch flipped for me after Marathon des Sables stays flipped. I don’t want to be 50 years old and working out one-pound-a-week weight-loss equations. It makes me sad to even think that might happen. But as useless as vanity is, and as straightforward as staying at a good racing weight should be, the I-Never-Think-About-How-Much-I-Weigh Club is a pretty exclusive (read: nearly nonexistent) one in the Western world. And I kind of expect to get kicked out.

From Pam:
Like many runners, I have a complicated relationship with weight. The rational side of me acknowledges that I have always been at a “normal” weight. But even a couple extra pounds of fat can keep me from being the best and fastest me possible when it comes to running. Getting to ideal body weight is certainly an integral part of getting into race shape, but the weight consciousness often comes with angst and torment over a number on a scale which outside of running would be a perfectly healthy number.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • Do you struggle in your relationship with your body weight? How long has the struggle lasted? Did it come about suddenly or has it gradually evolved?
  • Have you found that a good racing weight varies among the different kinds of races you do? In other words, are there some races in which you’ve found that a little more or less “meat” helps or hinders? And have you noticed your ideal racing weight to be the same as or different from your healthy body weight in general?
  • Have you had experiences like those that Gina, Liza, and Pam shared where you learned that body weight may actually have less to do with running performance than we imagine it might?
  • Do you have tips for how to healthfully negotiate your relationship with your body weight?
Trail Sisters

is a group of three women, each with unique opinions, ideas, and attitudes toward all things trail and ultrarunning. Pam Smith is a mom, physician, and lover of running who lives in Oregon. Liza Howard is a mom and 100-mile specialist from Texas. Gina Lucrezi is a Colorado-based short-distance speedster exploring the realms of ultrarunning.

There are 64 comments

  1. Matt Smith

    I find Gina's comment "I’m not a ‘tiny’ hater" unconvincing. Anyone who uses a derogatory term for a class of people based on their body size is not playing nice. Substitute the word "biggie" and re-read her statements and see if it sounds as good. Language is revealing in subtle ways, like when she states "These light things…" Not people – dehumanized things. Then there's the part where she indicates that she can spot eating disorders based on physical appearance: "…it was easy to pick out which girls were sick and which were naturally small people." How did the insulting tone of the article passed editorial muster?

    1. revgum

      I feel like you need to relax a little bit.. her segment was not some formal study. Is "tiny" derogatory, or just colloquial for "below average weight"? That would make the piece read a lot better.. "I'm not a 'below average weight' hater".

      I'll agree with you that "These light things…" comes off a little cheeky, but I personally hadn't considered it until reading your comment.

      I think you can pick out eating disorders by physical appearance.. definitely not all degrees of the spectrum of eating disorders..just one example might be the fullness (plumpness, fattiness, non-offensive-descriptor-of-amount-of-bodyfat-ness) of the face.

      Somewhat of a departure from my disagreeing with your criticism..I recall a point in time that I was trying to get below 200lbs.. for no other reason than it was some arbitrary number that I thought I should weigh. At 205lbs, a good friend of mine asked if I was feeling okay and why I was looking gaunt (gasp!)? After some reflection (literately, and figuratively speaking) I recognized my motivation and priority was screwed up. I wonder how many people were too shy to ask me the same thing, and whether or not I would have kept trying to lose weight once I reached my sub-200lb goal?!

    2. GinaLucrezi

      Hey Matt! Thanks for sharing how you feel. While writing this piece, it was my goal to be honest about how I felt and what I thought at that time. So…I stay true that. Obviously you can comment and disagree with whatever you want…freedom of speech and thought, right ;) Interpret my story how you feel, and if you think I meant it to be "mean"…then I guess you missed the point…along with all of the jokes I made about myself.

      As for spotting female eating disorders in a college sports, especially running…well, I suppose if you were with me in the locker room at the racing events and found girls throwing up in the toilets (meet after meet), you might change your tune. Your a little out of your range on that one.

      Oh…and our editor does an excellent job going through our story before it is posted. We don't write fluff pieces and sugar coat our thoughts. The whole point is to be honest, and speak your mind. There are three voices here, and each is different. Some people won't identify with my thoughts (like you), but they might identify with Liza or Pam. So it important to keep different tones and attitudes. To each his/her own Matt!

      1. Ben_Nephew

        Gina, was part of how you felt based on the fact the athletes with eating disorders were being rewarded, at least in the short term, which didn't seem right? I was held out of pre-season one year to have a heart murmur checked out, and it makes me think that pre season physicals could be doing more to deal with the high rate of ED's in college athletics. There are clearly many athletes competing that are not healthy. While there is a tremendous amount of variation in healthy body morphology, even setting very conservative requirements for body fat % should help women that need some help. It is strange that amenorrhea is so accepted given the increased risk for stress fractures and osteoporosis later on.

    3. Meghan Hicks

      Matt,

      Being a developing young woman is a really difficult time of life. Playing collegiate athletics–trying to use a body a young person doesn’t fully understand in a comparative, high-performance environment–makes being a young woman even more trying. Young women fight a lot of demons, right, wrong, externally created, internally created, rational, irrational, politically correct, or not. This article shows that those demons don’t go quietly into the night for many adult women, either.

      Gina clearly had issues with comparing the size of her body to others as a young person, and she may very well carry some of this into adulthood. Like you, I also found her section of the article difficult to read–mostly because it’s hard to picture her feeling that sort of sadness and isolation, and knowing there are many who fight/have fought similar mental battles. (Well, if I’m going to be honest, I find the entire article an emotionally wrenching thing to interact with.)

      Do I think Gina disliked little women as a collegiate runner? No. Do I think she really wanted to be a littler young woman than she was? Yes. Do I think Gina was actually a lot bigger than the girls she raced with collegiately? Most of them, no. A few of them, yes. Do I think Gina’s legitimately a hater of little women as an adult? No. Do I think Gina is actually a lot bigger than a lot of the women she’s surrounded by now as an adult? No. Do I think Gina’s personal battle was/is entirely logical and rational? No. Do I think her battle was/is real? Yes. Do I think her writing is honest? Yes. Do I think progressive conversations can emerge from honesty, however difficult being honest is? Yes. That’s why this article passed my editorial muster.

    4. lizahoward

      Matt, as someone on the smaller end of the height and weight spectrum, I didn't think twice about Gina's use of the word "tiny." I use that to describe myself more often than "short" — because that has more negative connotations for me. I like the word "tiny." Our intention is not to offend with word our word choice though. And it's useful to get feedback about how words might strike people different ways. As you say, there isn't really an oft-used counterpart to the word "tiny" on the opposite end of the height, weight spectrum for women.

  2. StephanieHowe01

    I actually think Gina is the most convincing that she is happy with her body. Runners come in all shapes and sizes and I really, truly don't believe in race weight. Not in the traditional sense anyway. Cutting a few pounds before a race is my worst nightmare as a sports nutritionist. Optimal nutrition for performance and weight loss are on opposite ends of the spectrum, and you can't have it all. I believe that ideal "race weight" happens when someone is eating properly, at a stable weight, and able to train and recover well. Not some arbitrary number selected…where does that even come from?! It shouldn't be hard to sustain "race weight" and thus, no need to fluctuations surrounding races or periods of restriction.

    1. mikehinterberg

      Hi Stephanie, I'm commenting because you have an experienced, sharp scientific mind and insight…but I think you oversimplified in your description of 'race weight,' IMHO. I agree that cutting weight deliberately right before a race, because of an arbitrary number, is likely deleterious. But the context here, and the way I've seen it used, is generally in the context of periodization during training, including goal races and recovery; potential time-off during the winter, as well as weight training; as well as success at different distances. (See Meb's weight fluctuations during/after marathon training!) I think it is healthful and shown to optimize performance when BMI is both closely aligned with a person's individual health as well as the context of the training. That is, an individual person racing different distances can consider a healthy weight appropriate to that distance; and eating a 100% eucaloric diet is not going to achieve that. Let alone, mass/weight and food kCal's are crude health measurements at time, anyway (e.g., sweat loss *during* an event vs. water gain with glycogen replenishment while tapering/recovering; the obvious limitations of digestion during a long event itself)

      So, if you mean a stigma of trying to lower one's weight unhealthily, than I agree. "Race weight" may mean needing to gain weight as well! But I think there is plenty of evidence and opportunity for healthful discovery and achievement of optimal weight race, and that a degree of fluctuation during typical training cycle and even an event itself is part of optimal performance. I would be curious to see if you agree or disagree, and if you suggest scientific evidence regarding optimal race weight and (lack of) training-cycle fluctuation.

      1. StephanieHowe01

        You're right. I did oversimplify in attempt to not be too wordy :)

        You brought up a lot of great points! It sounds like you have a healthy understanding and respect for your body. I wish more people could understand the big picture, rather than treat the body like a checkbook. Energy In ≠ Energy Out. The body is way more complex than that, and even though you can calculate how much "faster" a lighter weight should be, it actually doesn't work like that.

        The term "race weight", although not a negative thing, really has become synonymous with restricting energy intake and losing weight. That's more the issue. Maybe if we change people's attitudes and educate them as to what race weight really means then there would be more positive thoughts surrounding the term.

      2. Ben_Nephew

        The context here is three female runners, where eating disorders are far too common, and that does not even include the body image struggles described by the authors. The context is ultrarunning, which by definition and in practice attracts runners with obsessive and/or compulsive personality traits which are key risk factors for developing eating disorders. The context is a sport that often describes runners dropping out of races for "health reasons" rather than specifically stating that they had rhabdomyolysis.

        In theory, all runners should be able to consider how their weight relates to their performance rationally. In practice, some men can do this, some cannot, and a significantly higher percentage of women cannot. The focus of training with respect to numbers should be mileage and sustainable performances in training and racing, not body weight.

        Ideas promoting focusing on racing weight may potentially benefit runners who have a healthy relationship with weight, but a more direct focus on performance relevant factors would provide the same or greater benefits. The cost is that they will encourage and be used as fuel by those susceptible to body image issues and eating disorders. For many, especially young women, they don't realize they are developing an eating disorder and do not have an adequate appreciation for the long term risks. Considering the prevalence of eating disorders in our sport and the long term adverse consequences they entail, I find that the costs easily outweigh the benefits.

        1. mikehinterberg

          Thank you for the reply, Stephanie!
          And Ben, don't misunderstand, we're on the same page with respect to the negative consequences and any focus on a specific, arbitrary number. You have excellent points with specific regard to psychology in ultrarunning.

          I was spurred by the questions at the bottom discussing racing weight. This starts with Gina's primary anecdote mentioning her realization of her own 'race weight' as being a strength! (Which seems like a great realization vs. a previous misconception). Moreover, it was during an XC race (not ultra). The next story shared was about the MdS. So, the context of any potential racing weight here spanned from minutes to days; with the audience broad and diverse as well.
          Considering all of this, and the context of a training cycle, aging, and moving between disciplines, one's weight is going to fluctuate. With a healthy relationship (ultimately described as epiphanies in these stories, and Stephanie's followup), "race weight" can be a description of a healthful, high-performing range for an individual when racing, which is likely slightly different than off-season weight, and can be slightly different as people focus on particular race distances. Agreed, it should never be targeted at all costs — quick weight loss done inappropriately would more than negate any benefit of weighing less — and for some consideration of weight in and of itself causes more harm that good. In others, I've seen people try to focus on a 'steady',but unhealthy, weight all year and cause themselves harm — especially once they get into demanding race cycles.
          But I didn't want to act like the concept of a race weight doesn't exist, and can't be useful — especially given the very broad audience of this website, some of whom may have race events as part of a healthy weight loss goal — and that weight doesn't realistically fluctuate per individual, per cycle, per distance and race goals. This is described realistically in Pam's description of getting fit after the off/recovery season. I'm arguing that an unhealthy focus on weight, and not the mere concept of race weight, is the problem.

  3. BrettSC

    On a side but related note, I do not find unnaturally skinny looking women attractive. I like 'fit' looking women. I want some meat, something to hold onto. But more important is their attitude, sense of humor, and what's rattling around in their brain and heart. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter what someone looks like physically if I can not engage with their soul. Being 'physically attractive' is a byproduct of how self-confident, hilarious, witty, and kind someone is. That's just my two cents.

    1. @Ellen_Waller

      Hi Brett. This is exactly the kind of comment that is framed as a compliment but is sexist and unhelpful. We don't care what you find attractive- our bodies are not here to meet your standards of beauty. You are policing what you think women should look like in order to be attractive, whether you realized it or not. Try to be aware of how harmful your words can be- thin runners do not need to worry about looking feminine enough to please you, and muscular or larger runners are not built that way to please you.

      1. thorhammer24

        Ellen – thank you for being eloquent and brave enough to say exactly what I was thinking but couldn't find words for. You're an inspiration.

      2. BrettSC

        Thanks for your reply Ellen. I'm sorry you misunderstood my comment, but I can see how you did. I specifically said BODIES do NOT matter to attractiveness (later on). I am not doing any policing, I am merely pointing out my personal opinion that what makes someone attractive to me is how self-confident, hilarious, witty, and kind someone is. If you don't care that this is how I define attractive, then good – that's your opinion.

        1. @Ellen_Waller

          Brett, you said "I do not find unnaturally skinny looking women attractive. I like 'fit' looking women." You directly commented on the type of body you find attractive. Magazines and the media do this all the time too "this celebrity is SCARY SKINNY" or "real women have curves!". It is a constant message. We have to be perfect- not too thin, but not too big; we must have a feminine figure but only with curves in the right places, but must look fit/athletic. It is a never-ending, impossible standard that you directly participated in by saying "i do not find unnaturally skinny women attractive" and "I like fit women" and "i want some meat" (which is a creepy thing to say, by the way- you are literally comparing women's bodies to food).

          If you say bodies don't matter to attractiveness, then don't comment on what type of bodies you don't find attractive as you did above. Or how about just don't comment on women's bodies ever? We do not need your commentary. Trust me, we get plenty.

          1. BrettSC

            Yea like I said, I get why you felt the way you did. My opening sentences were less than impressive, which I tried to qualify in the subsequent sentences thereafter. My point is that we all have preferences – my favorite color is green. Now does that mean I feel that anything green was put on earth for my pleasure? Of course not. Does it mean I shouldn't admit that I actually prefer the color green? Of course not. This comment thread is on point for this topic, so all this discussion (no matter where you fall) is ultimately healthy for everyone to learn from at the end of the day. I have learned from your comments, and I hope you have learned from mine.

            1. @Ellen_Waller

              Oh boy. This really does matter, so I'll take the time to explain from another angle. Even if you are the only person who sees this.

              Do you see the questions at the bottom of the article, to promote discussion? Is there a question that says: "Men, we'd love to hear from you. Are thin female runners unattractive? What type of runner's body do you find attractive?"

              The answer is NOPE. Your preferences on body type are not relevant to this conversation. Not only was your comment not relevant, but it's the type of comment that causes unhealthy relationships with weight and eating. Women can't even safely talk about their histories of disordered eating and mental struggles with weight without you chiming in. You are contributing to the impossible standard that women are held to by telling us that too thin is yucky and you don't like it.

              I know it seems harsh for someone to tell you that your opinion is not wanted. But truly, your opinion on body type preference was not requested, and is irrelevant and derailing to the important conversation at hand.

            2. BrettSC

              Well down at the bottom there is a question soliciting comments that uses the word 'meat'. :) So you could cut me a little slack on simply re-using the term they said first. Besides, in your attempt to bully and intimidate me away, you completely ignore the reality that men can struggle with their body weight too. For every picture of a female like those shown above I can show you a corresponding one for men. How many men have you seen on a cover who are 20 pounds overweight?

      3. Archangel_Tex

        Ellen. I read your comments down to the bottom of the page, and find you to be hyper-hyper harsh on Brett and judgmental. I understand your initial comment. Saying which body type one likes is not relevant to the discussion and simply puts more pressure on an already body-conscious person. However, as Brett said, he simply expressed an opinion, and his opinion is not "policing." Furthermore, his intentions were not bad, even if he could have expressed them in a better way. If anything, it strikes me as his attempt to try to join the gang and be a part by saying he prefers unskinny women. Again, his way of saying it may have lacked class, but your response to him was way out of proportion to his mistake.
        Ironically, you are the one who is "policing" by very sarcastically trying to tell him he has to limit his comments to the suggested comment topics. Actually, he tried to have a civil discussion with you, and the more he tried to talk, the more brutally and disproportionately you jumped all over him. I think he is right that you tried to bully and intimidate him. I will be swimming upstream by giving my opinion on this thread, but like Brett, I have a right to express my opinion. And I thought your response was unnecessarily harsh, disproportionate, and bordering on being vicious to a person who was trying to have a civil discussion.

        1. @Ellen_Waller

          I think it's important to understand the perspective of people who are frustrated by Brett's comments. As women, especially athletes, we hear comments about the type of body we should have EVERY DAY. This is not an exaggeration- comments about the best body type are in magazines, TV, online, Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram- everywhere you go there are men opining on how your body should look in order to be attractive. It is widespread and exhausting.

          So it's very frustrating to read a thoughtful, nuanced post where three women talk about their complicated relationships with weight and body type, and then have a dude chime in about not liking women who are too skinny. And then trying to play it off like "it's just a preference".

          I'm not being judgmental, or intimidating, or vicious. If it's vicious to ask someone to butt out with their opinions on women's bodies in an article about women's' struggles with weight, well, I don't even know what to say.

          Maybe, just maybe, you should jump to the defense of women who hear these comments and are hurt by them every single day. Rather than jumping to the defense of another guy on the internet who thinks it's ok to define what body type is most attractive.

          1. mrsensitivity68

            You're so defensive.. it's okay to take a step back, realize you were out of line and ranted too hard, and just offer a simple apology. BrettSC has every right to voice his opinion regardless of how sensitive it was to you.. he went out of his way to yield, somewhat, to your bullying before finally calling a spade a spade. Get a grip Ellen. Clearly you personally have deep seeded issues with the topic, everyone understands that… it's okay, you're in good company.

            Also, realize that the media pushes body image at men all day every day too. God forbid a man doesn't have six pack abs, a strong jaw line, single-digit body fat.. Many men just don't talk about the pressure they feel from it, because then they would be viewed as less masculine and/or weak. Think about that for a second. No.. seriously… give that some thought. How about the constant flood of memes of the like with some "hawt" shirtless faux-fireman male and women commenting about them saving their kitty.. or whatever.

            As a youngster, I think you're more susceptible to trying to fit some mold that you see on magazine covers, your favorite TV shows, or whatever. As you grow up, you'll hopefully find the balance and become less affected by it and more comfortable with being yourself.. no matter what size and shape that ends up being. Some of the commenters, and authors of this article, are "old ladies" compared to you.. read what they are saying, they are offering you and other young ladies some words of wisdom.

            1. @Ellen_Waller

              A youngster? I'm in my 30's. I'm not susceptible and am very comfortable with myself. Which is why I'm taking the time to draw attention to how hurtful these comments are, even when men like you are creating accounts just to tell me to "get a grip". Women need to have thick skin when speaking up about this, since guys are so quick to tell us we are "sensitive" or to "get a grip" or to "be more comfortable with myself". It's not being defensive- it's standing up for myself rather than backing down at your unwarranted criticism.

              I'm asking a man to not opine on what body types he likes, on article about women's internal struggles with their bodies. It is not a big ask.

              It's pretty telling that men are creating accounts to tell me I am being sensitive while women are upvoting all of my comments.

            2. BrettSC

              Thanks you and Tex. I appreciated Ellen's initially calling out my post. Because had she not, I wouldn't have realized how badly it came off. But after giving me a chance to clarify my post she is now creating straw man arguments. Lets recap:
              * I used the word 'meat', which she found creepy – this was the same 'meat' that was used in the call for comments. But if you didn't realize that, I could definitely see why that would come off wrong.
              * I meant to say we all have preferences (and I listed mine, I don't like skinny people but prefer someone that is fit), *but if you keep reading* you will see that I also immediately said those preferences matter a heck of a lot less than the media will lead you to believe. Here is my exact quote: "At the end of the day, it doesn't matter what someone looks like physically if I can not engage with their soul. Being 'physically attractive' is a byproduct of how self-confident, hilarious, witty, and kind someone is."

              As many people have said on this article, both men and women struggle with these issues, and both women and men are bombarded with unhealthy stereotypes in the media.

              Like I said, now she's gone to the point just creating straw men, like saying men are commenting about what female body types they like on an article only for women. Especially after I've had a chance to clarify my intent, that is just a silly thing to say – she's completely ignoring the full context of the analogy and point I was making.

              If you look at the trend in plus/minus, she started high positive and ended up low negative. And I did the reverse. So at this point I think all the salient points have been made and fighting against whatever her real agenda is won't provide any further value here.

            3. Meghan Hicks

              Brett, Ellen, and all,

              I’ve been thinking long and hard about whether I, as an editor and conversation moderator and woman, wanted to respond to this string of comments as it has developed, and if I did, what I should say. Most times, when I’m compelled to comment, I know right away what I’m going to write. In this case, the opposite is true.

              First, I don’t think either Brett or Ellen or anyone who has responded the Brett-and-Ellen thread have commented in a way that’s intentionally disrespectful or against our comment policy. At times, there has been a little heat to it, but it’s also been constructive and an exchange that we can learn from. And it seems that everyone’s words have come from a well-intentioned place. Thank you all for this.

              Research has consistently shown huge variation between how men and women imagine their own bodies, what influences body image in men and women, the percentage of men and women with positive versus negative body images, the age at which women and men begin thinking about the way their body looks, how sports participation affects men’s and women’s body images, and so much more. Thus, we must, must, must not box men’s and women’s relationships with their body weight/image into the same category. Men must not think that they understand what women feel when they look in a mirror, when they look at other women, what playing sports makes them feel about themselves, how they react when someone says something about a woman’s body. Vice versa, women should not imagine these things about men. We are so different here.

              I’m really grateful that men are participating in this conversation, especially those men who’ve described their own relationships with their body weight/image. I hope you continue to do so. I place high value in the sensitivity and vulnerability you are expressing. But the Brett-and-Ellen thread is all about women’s body image and men’s affect on it, so the balance of my comment will follow this train of thought.

              I want to talk about some really important things for a minute when it comes to women and body image. Research shows that roughly 20% of young American girls like what they see when they look in the mirror. Rates of positive body image do go up for young girls in other countries, but not by that much. And that statistic doesn’t shift too much as women get older. The vast majority of women, of just about any age bracket and starting before age 10, have a problematic body image.

              Research has also shown that, among the many, many things that affect women’s body image, a heterosexual woman’s body image changes based upon what she thinks men find attractive. Whether we like it or not, whether we wish it were the case or not, we must acknowledge that men ‘hold’ power in the heterosexual woman’s body-image equation.

              What I’m trying to say is that we’re talking about one of the most sensitive topics out there, how humans imagine their own bodies, and the way situations, statements, moments, perhaps even comments to a website, affect those imaginings. The voice inside keeps reminding me that there is great winning potential here, but also great loss potential. And in this particular instance, I hope men choose to use their influence for good.

              Thanks for being here in this discussion, everyone. It means a lot.

            4. BrettSC

              Thank you for the feedback Meghan. It saddened me to see how my comment negatively impacted Ellen – because if it impacted Ellen, then it no doubt negatively impacted 100 other Ellens. I thought about going back and deleting or editing my first two sentences and leaving the rest, but I didn't think that would have been fair to try and change or whitewash history – plus I think there are teachable moments in everything.

    2. lizahoward

      A lot of the male runners I know share your opinion, Brett, which is one of the reasons that the running weight issue is so interesting.

    3. georgia_c

      Bit late on the comments, and have tried to catch up on replies before posting so appreciate that you've already cleared up your original statement and believe you did post with good intent BrettSC. However, I still feel I need to say that I was pretty disappointed to read a thought provoking on athlete's relationships with their own weight (I agree that this is a broad issue affecting men as well as women, though often in different ways, even though this article was specifically female-centric) and effects that this can have on performance, and find that one of the first comments is based on attractiveness. The fact that it doesn't seem possible to have any discussion in the media about how people view their own weight, or weight/performance benefits without it immediately becoming a discussion about what is attractive, is surely part of the problem? Again, this is not picking out men as the only offenders here; how often are media images of male athletes assessed for how toned or 'ripped' they look and how attractive this is too?

      Anyway, before this turns into a bit of a ramble – in summary, disappointed that a piece on athletes' feelings about their own weight and performance has sparked discussion about how attractive or otherwise different weights are, and think this is reflective of an endemic problem with the media which affects us all.

  4. lizahoward

    Our hope was that the article might open the door to an interesting discussion. Thanks to those who have started the comments. I think I only know two runners right now who aren't trying to lose 2-pounds to train or race better or look leaner. Sure, my running circle isn't enormous, but it's pretty big. It'd be great to hear from those folks who don't have trouble maintaining the stable healthy weight that Stephanie describes. Gina comes off as most convincing about being happy about her weight because I think she is. And I think Pam and I represent a good chunk of runners out there too.

  5. @eLLiejG

    Great read, thanks for sharing your thoughts Gina, Liza and Pam. Though I can't help but despair/ chuckle (depending on my mindset) that part way through the article I have to scroll down past 3 magazine ad covers – all of which depict an airbrushed runner model wearing bun-hugging shorts and a crop top. Whilst these models/ runners may be very fit, healthy and fast runners (or maybe not) they are indicative of the role media plays in shaping what we think a runner must look like. I never go running wearing just a crop top because I don't look like those photos and thus I don't feel like a runner if I do.

      1. @eLLiejG

        AND they've had their hair professionally styled AND had professional make up done! Where's the sweat, the mud, the tangled hair and the extra pound or two from having indulged in a little too much chocolate? ;)

          1. StephanieHowe01

            I was just having this debate with a friend last night!

            I think it's important to be authentic in photos, not portrayed as someone different. I've done numerous photo shoots and not once have I ever had my hair or makeup done or had the photo altered. If I'm supposed to look sweaty and muddy, then I go for 10 miles beforehand! I'm not as popular as the cover shot models, but I hope to be a better role model and a real person to those who see me.

          2. Sarah

            In Trail Runner's defense, not all cover models/runners are waif-like. Check out the Oct 2015 cover with Paulette Stevenson running & looking awesome, real and normal-sized. My impression is it's an internal debate at magazines like Trail Runner between the publishing/advertising side that cares most about sales — and sadly, the fact is that skinny, chiseled abs and bun huggers sell better in the general population — and the editorial side that wants to be real and authentic. I imagine Photoshopping is very common but hopefully done to improve the aesthetic/visual quality of the overall pic, not to give the cover model a makeover.

            1. GinaLucrezi

              I can actually speak to this, having worked for Trail Runner magazine. The folks over there are great people and don't look for the "sex" shot. In general, the cover should draw the audience in based on a beautiful scene. Something to motivate the viewer to get outside and run :) They have only printed two covers with portraits…and I believe the rest are with runners in motion, as compared to the "stare you down in my sexy half naked stance pose". As for touch-ups, I'm sure every publication does it….but some more than others.

            2. pzillme

              Yep, my 4 month PP pudge is there in Trail Runner :). It's funny I say pudge – and you say normal-sized Sarah. But I say pudge because I think it most other mags, I'd be airbrushed. So, I'll give props to trail runner for featuring me 4 months PP. :)

  6. @eric_dykes

    You know, these magazines are such bullshit media to get knowledge from. I think you have to have some kind of disease to read these damn things. Thanks to YouTube, and Twitter et al, I just follow pro runners, and get my training and health tips and running education more directly. These magazines just have to sell, that's why they have all the same stories all the time, and that usually target yuppies who want to think they are bad-ass superpeople, who aren't even amateur level runners (or whatever kind of magazine it is – Backpacker) – which I don't think doing whatever activity it is is really about being a bad-ass superperson; that's just what the magazine projects to Mr./Ms. Careerist who buys it. So they perpetuate this image of people that is totally false, but it makes more magazine copies sell. I think this article was perfect in addressing this issue. Thanks!

  7. erinlynngood

    Thank you for posting this. I actually just spent some time yesterday seriously reflecting on my weight and the relationship with running and sport, so I appreciate the timing of this article. I have struggled with weight pretty much since I learned what a scale was, and similar to what Liza mentioned I can tell you from memory the average number of calories in a slice of bread, half an avocado, or two tablespoons of olive oil. I have reached a point now that is the closest I have ever been to accepting myself and this body than ever before, but it still pops up from time to time. I trained for my first (and then second) 100 mile race this year, and I lost over 20 pounds in the process. I am 5'2" and started at 138 in January 2015, which placed me just into the "overweight" category (25.2) for BMI. I weighed myself yesterday, two weeks after completing a 100, and I was at 114.

    Weight loss is an incredibly slippery slope. In my own experience, watching the numbers tick down was exciting, and at times I was tempted to see if I could move the scale a little faster by restricting or cutting back on calories. The external feedback was also interesting to interpret; coworkers and friends began commenting on my appearance, weight loss, and how "great!" I looked. It served my ego initially, but then began to feel uncomfortable. What did they think of me before? Why are people so comfortable with commenting on others' appearances? Sure, outside opinions shouldn't matter and all that, but as a woman socialized to look a certain way it brought up a lot of conflicting feelings to sit with.

    My goal now is strength, not size. I realized that yesterday when I was looking at my body in the mirror, a body that hasn't been at 114 since high school. I caught myself thinking, "I don't want to lose any more weight, I need it to move." I really cannot recall another time where I've said to myself, "Nope, this is good. This is enough." These muscular thighs will never look quite right in skinny jeans, but they power me up and over mountains and take me splashing through mud puddles. And that is more than enough.

    <Side note: posting one's weight online is an incredibly weird feeling, but hey, here's to practicing vulnerability and transparency>

    1. @eLLiejG

      Awesome post and I (optimistically) hope those coworkers of yours showered you with far more praises for running 2 x 100 mile races than they did for losing some weight (which is of course great and commendable but wow – so is tackling 2 x 100 mile races!). And yeah, skinny jeans are never going to happen for a lot of us (myself included) :)

  8. thorhammer24

    Recently, I travelled halfway across the world, partly for the Reykjavik half-marathon. It was meant to be my first marathon but the spectre of injury haunted my training and I have yet to nail that. So. We left for Scandinavia three weeks before the race, and I figured I'd have time for training as we travelled. "Fat" chance! Every day we did well over ten kilometres walking around sightseeing, usually on cobblestones, and I was too exhausted to run. That, combined with the EATING ZOMG, meant that I was pretty chunky when we came home a week after my race and I ran a surprise half eight hours after we landed. That's right – fly thirty hours and god knows how many time zones, get off the plane, go run a race. Excellent idea.

    When we finally got ourselves back in the swing of being home. I weighed myself. I'd gained, on my previously 58kg/128lb frame, 8kg/17lb. In four weeks. But I had a half PR from Reykjavik and a pretty impressive story of backing it up with another solid race against some long odds!

    When I began running a bit over two years ago, at age 31, I was pretty happy with my body. I felt safe in it, comfortable. I'd been the same or same-ish weight for about fifteen years and I liked my shape. So when that weight and shape began changing drastically as I ran more, I struggled with this new me in the mirror. I hated that my bones dug into the bed when I lay down to sleep, that I can no longer lay on my stomach as my ribs and hip bones hurt too much. But I'm coming good. The new normal is a smaller me and the holiday weight comes off her. Slowly but without effort. To keep from going crazy I limit myself to one weigh-in a week and if I miss it, which is often, I wait till the next week. And the numbers are going down as I watch the holiday roundness melt a little from stomach and hips. My coach couldn't care less what I weigh and I love that, and try to take the same approach.

    1. lizahoward

      Your comment about your coach struck me. I think it's so helpful to have strong role models who emphasize health and strength and don't criticize their own appearance when it comes to working against cultural norms about body weight and appearance.

      1. thorhammer24

        I'm sure it helps that my coach is a guy ;-) but I value his attitude all the more because of that, I think – it's simply a non-issue for him. I could be 80kg and he wouldn't care, nor make any changes based on that. He's a bit of a rare gem. I have to say.

  9. kjz

    I am super glad and happy I fell into mountain and trail running somewhat by accident and never looked back. I think, honestly, if I only ran roads and track, my brain would have a much harder time with how I do not measure up to the oft super lean front runners (and age groupers, etc). But I LOVE that mountain running lets me celebrate my hill climbing body. I love that my strength lets me carry my pack with extras for emergencies. I love that I can go all day and fuel well pre, during, and post, to keep my decisions sharp, my body warm, and my energy steady. And I love that this body grew a kiddo and is keeping up with that sweet kiddo. I also know that every bite of Ben and Jerry's or grandma's casserole or my homemade cookies, or a french pastry or etc etc is worth it and to give it up for a few pounds is not. Mountain running has taught me this over the years, and I'm so thankful.

    I still have to remind myself of all this on the days I don't feel so strong and powerful and fit… which is totally irritating that I, in all my "mature" empowered strong woman-ness, have to remind myself that life is about far more than if my stomach is perfectly flat, but thankfully it's not too often… and thankfully my parents raised me to not place high priority on others' opinions of my looks.I figure that if we want to help the next generation(s) not have such a battle with body dysmorphia, we've got to start somewhere… and this is a darn good start for me. I think the change happens with one person, and one more, and one more… and organizations like Girls on the Run and the 100 Mile Club (kids) and etc are going a long ways to help promote the function > form perspective.

  10. texajerseygirl

    Traci Falbo posted this article where i follow her on facebook. She is someone i admire because she has had a similar weight journey to mine. i gained 15 pounds this first triathlon season. i'm a 5 year runner, many 13.1's and such. but this was my first year with a sport where i needed a strong body if i wanted to achieve my goals and stay injury free. And i'm proud to say i have run my first 50K (second one in 2 weeks) have completed my first 70.3 and 9 other triathlons this season. i could not have done this without the strength that i developed all these months. i'm trying to be more forgiving of my body and by doing that i'm actually eating less crap and working out harder and surprise surprise my clothes still fit the same. guess i have nothing to worry about. and i'll just keep kicking A$$!

  11. karlhenning

    Great article.
    One side of weight, eating and excercise is the thought that you eat what you deserve. E.g: now that i have done 10 km today i allow myself chocolate, candy, beer or ice cream etc.

    I think one aspect of having a healthy relationship to weight and food is to listen to your bodily signals like hunger and urges. And less of plus and minus, calories in and out. Maybe easier to say than do.

  12. @texassky

    As a mid-packer (back o' the pack), I must interject, if that it's OK. If we are being honest with ourselves, we know in our hearts (and bellies) when to eat and what to eat. The idea of milling over a few pounds to make us just a few seconds faster is nonsensical, ultra-speaking. And, opposing, running around the neighborhood with my large wobbly bits flapping out of my spandex can be embarrassing but a reality check because I got myself there in the first place. I got into running (jogging) to lose weight. That was a SILLY idea! Because running makes me hungry and, quite frankly, makes me want to slam a pizza every Sunday after the long run. Maybe that's just me. I have lost 20 pounds (because I needed it) and it has made me faster. Also, I am now more aware of how my body reacts to certain foods while I'm running. And, I am learning nutrition as I go. So, thank you for the time you take to blog about running AND nutrition. My point is, most people start running to lose weight and find they are faster without the spare tire. (Not me, I am still slow.) It's important to find a HEALTHY balance, though. I take a particular liking to what Stephanie Howe was saying. Because we are running for life, not for one race (I heard that from a mentor at Team RWB trail camp a few weeks ago) And note that you elite folk set the standard for MANY people out there. So, if y'all run around too "tiny," many other people will try to follow those standards because they "wanna be like Mike." You know what I mean?

    Balance is key in life and in love.

    Also, can we ladies ease up on the dudes just a bit? The few that did chime in, I think, were unfairly ridiculed for giving their opinion. It may not be as eloquent or PC as we ladies like, but it's important to LISTEN to one another and respect opinions, even when we don't always agree. Maybe ask for clarification next time, rather than throwing down the gauntlet.

  13. RunningStupid

    Thank you so much for this article!! Weight and body image is probably my biggest weakness!! I really needed this right now with my own journey!

    I've been struggling with weight ever since I've started running! I started running as a weight loss program (and I'm down over 50 pounds since I've started!)! While I've never been happy with my weight as a runner, I do try to focus on my accomplishments… At over 220#'s, I've run a faster 200 mile time than most folks I know!! Heck, I RAN A 200! :) Of course, I think a lot about how much faster I would be at an "elite weight" (and how much easier it would be on my body)! At 25#'s lighter, I took about 12 hours off of that 200 time… Even with my accomplishments, I find that I still get upset and even depressed with my weight and really have to fight hard to maintain, much less drop weight! It's a constant struggle and life would be so much easier if I could find a way to let it go… I get frustrated because I CAN control my weight but I don't seem to work hard enough, far too often! I'm excited for weight loss for awhile, falter, get depressed and gain it back! It would be so much easier if my weight didn't affect my self esteem!! Obviously, weight isn't the issue for me, self esteem is!

    I really try to stay away from "I'll be happy when X happens" scenarios! I've found that when I reach whatever goal, I simply raise the bar and end up with "I'll be happy when Y happens" instead! Better to focus on being happy in the moment and enjoy the process instead of focusing on the outcome (just like running ultras!!)!! I lose sight of that far too often with weight, however! Thank you so much for this article! Typing this really helped me refocus and look at my own journey in the positive way I need to (I was getting pretty down on myself for gaining 3-4 pounds over the weekend instead of being thrilled that I was able to help my amazing wife finish her first 100!!)!

    On a side note, I know a few world record holders (both genders) who have the same issues! We're all in the same boat!! So glad we're in it together at least!!

    All Day!
    ~Ken

  14. dave at runopedia

    I agree with Ken above, this is much needed at this time. I have struggled with my weight so much since quitting mountain bike racing 16 years ago, I have been up/down in my weight by as much as 60 pounds at a time and now am at my highest weight ever. Not good to be 100 pounds up from your racing days. So, now that I started my blog directory, runopedia, I intend on using the blog to get back into shape and rejoin the running community as I have neglected my health over the years. Thanks again for this very timely post.
    Dave

  15. @meredithbn

    Thanks ladies for a wonderful and insightful article! I'd like to share how I started my nutrition seminars at Team RWB camp in regards to how we approach our eating: "Everything in Moderation…EVEN Moderation" I feel we lose sight that we are not necessarily looking for a number when we think of race weight, but a feeling. I like to tell folks that 'race weight' is not always a number goal, but a goal to feel your best, recover well, stay healthy, and get to the start line with a body prepared to perform!

  16. @laurakfrancis

    Good article. Interesting to read different perspectives. Over about 10 years I had gradually gained a lot of weight with a sedentary job and lifestyle plus too much eating and drinking out. Then 2 kids by c-section and I pretty much hated the way I looked. I started running in earnest about 20 months ago. I did my first 100k in June and as part of that journey – couch to 100k journey – couch to 100kight-and-the-accompanying-head-games.html&afp=%26output%3Djson_html%26impl%3Ds%26dt%3D1447280856577%26adx%3D10%26ady%3D60%26flash%3D0&tmo=3&tme=1699&tdl=1173&tcl=2355&abd=0-0-5&r=u&bs=320,504&bos=-12245933,-12245933&ps=320,25400&ss=320,568&tt=257&pt=2482&deb=1-2-2-3-5-9&tvt=1039&uc=7&tgt=IFRAME&cl=1 HTTP/1.1

  17. @amysproston

    These days, I am absolutely fine with my weight until I step on a scale. Which is why I try never to step on a scale. I don't own a scale and don't step on them at the gym. I used to weigh myself much more frequently and would stress over hitting a number.

    At the end of the day, I know it's just a number, and that being 5'9" that number should not be the same as someone 9" shorter, but at some deep down level I want to weigh what my shorter friends weigh. I can tell when I'm heavier than I want to be, or on the thin side, and don't need a scale to measure that. Stepping on a scale quickly brings out the crazy in me. I hate getting weighed in at 100s. I'm already crazy enough before the start of a big race.

    So, that would be my one tip, from someone who used to try to always hit a number and at times has restricted to unhealthily thin levels: avoid the scale. Like others point out above, go for the feeling you get when you know you're where you want to be–you don't need a scale for that. Sadly, I went to the doctor the other day and got weighed. And the crazy has resurfaced just a bit.

    1. thorhammer24

      My heart goes out to you, it really does. I shout down the crazy (I'm good at that) but I know it's harder for some people. And when you're blindsided by it sometime, like by a health professional, or when you know you've got to run that gauntlet at the 100…girl, do I feel for you. Keep strong.

  18. corkydean

    Thanks to all the trail sisters who have begun this series! I've read all the above comments as well as the previous irunfar article written to which this most recent article is similarly linked. They are very valuable and helpful in opening up a very important conversation. In fact, I've shared both with all my HS runners (boys AND girls). There is an interesting battle between two responders, both whom I think are genuine and in their beliefs, that seems to perfectly mirror the difficulty of the subject. I do agree that equating any value of "attractiveness" to the conversation SHOULD be inappropriate and only perpetuates much of the sexism that exists with regard to body type. Yet, that error-ridden connection is exactly at the crux of what I think the Trail Sisters are trying to bring up. In other words, discussions about body shape, weight, racing weight, etc. should be discussed in the context of health and performance. Unfortunately, in our society they aren't and this type of conversation is an important step toward moving it away from value judgements of beauty, attractiveness, etc. Keep the conversation going.

    1. corkydean

      By the way, my bigger battle as a coach, parent and spouse is to get my kids to eat MORE, not less (and ensuring that eating choices are healthy).

  19. erin

    I love the fact that strong, talented, elite female ultrarunners are speaking honestly about this topic! It's refreshing (though admittedly kind of a bummer) that female runners at ALL levels seem to wrestle with this in some form or another. I have been at wildly different weights in my life and can pinpoint the weight at which I feel strongest & fastest. (no it was not at my skinniest…at my skinniest i was a weak, sad version of myself-not pretty, not strong, not powerful). Yes, I struggle at times with body image, but what I am really chasing is a FEELING. When I eat well and feel light and fast : that is the magic place. I try to resist the scale as a determining factor in this equation. I am inspired by women who embrace their bodies and continually strive to be better, stronger, fitter – no matter what that looks like physically.

  20. suzbon

    As an ultrarunner in my 50s I'd like to share my latest perspective on this very important topic. My body focus these days is not so much on how I look but how I feel. With gray hair, wrinkly skin and creaky joints, I spend little time concerned with the few extra pounds. Instead I think about how my body makes me feel. Because my body is strong, I feel powerful; because it can still go long distances, I feel youthful. and because of the many times when I have felt completely spent and at the edge of defeat, it has always responded positively when I ask for just a little bit more to make it to the finish line- I have a sense of achievement. These feelings, combined with the three humans I grew and delivered into this world have me in awe of what my body can accomplish and I am so grateful for it, with all it's imperfections. So on the days when I feel like my a$$ is sagging down the back of my thighs or my belly jiggles as I bound down a trail, I remember the delicious micro-brew I enjoyed the evening before, smile to myself and think, I'm powerful, I'm youthful and I can still make it to the finish line, thanks body!

  21. Ultrail

    I, too, am happy to see people speaking their minds with honesty and humility. I am discouraged that some people seem so eager to criticize others for sharing their feelings; yet I am equally encouraged that so many friends here are willing to walk — or run — a mile in somebody else's shoes. Chins up.

  22. ctkohm

    Thank you ladies for paving the way! So many of us men experience the very same emotions and negative thoughts and self-judgment about our weight and appearance. I wonder how many men, when seeing that awesome pic of Tony K. being paced by Jen S. at WS, thought, "WOW! that dude is a lean, racing machine! I want to…I need to… look like that." Thankfully, it is acceptable for women to talk about these appearance and ED issues, which hopefully will translate to us men being able to feel safe disclosing our true feelings about ourselves. But at the time, it seems unacceptable for us men to talk about it in the same way as the article above, despite that we certainly experience it too. Thanks again.

  23. Heatherbowes

    I have a 2nd place mug from the Sugarloaf 15K back in 1994. I ran at my lightest weight and it was the last race I ran for quite some time. I was not happy with that 2nd place. This mug I keep as a reminder to support and educate young and experienced athletes about the importance of fueling our bodies. Those years in my youth I trained harder and longer than anyone else out there. But I did not train smart. I wasted away from a strong and healthy 155 pound ski racer to a 108 pound struggling and starving runner.
    Train hard, get better – spirit willing right?
    Eat less, run lighter, run faster- not the case.
    I wish I had a role model such as Emelie Forsberg , or a coach who shook me by the shoulders and addressed the mistakes I was making. Many coaches just don't know how to deal with the complex nature of over training and under eating. They are afraid to acknowledge it.
    If I had known then what I know now, I would have stumbled less for sure. But I honestly have no regrets because I know it has given me the experience and knowledge to help others. If your child, or self struggles with the fear of eating and enjoying food, or believes that food is an enemy rather than pure magic… Start a conversation, find help. You won't believe the difference you will come to see.
    I am ALWAYS available to talk with anyone in this situation, whether it is yourself, a friend, or especially a teen. It is so hard to know how to approach someone you love who needs help, maybe I can help. Don't stay silent. Xo http://www.heathermbowes.com

  24. Ellie

    I’m eight months post-partum, and have never felt less happy with my body. It’s a horrible feeling: instead of feeling proud that I birthed a healthy, happy baby girl, I find myself longing for my pre-baby abs and hips. Please don’t get me wrong: this is not a comment that I regret becoming a mother. I just wish I could get over the comparison with my old self, and with my running mates. My body has changed: hips are wider, skin is softer and less elastic, and it’s taking some sweet time to get my previous levels of CV fitness back. What I know I should be doing is celebrating that I can still run, that I’m successful in getting off the sofa, handing over the baby and heading out the door. But I find myself locked in a cycle of future thought: when my abs are stronger, when I’m 7lbs lighter. Part of it is that it’s just hard being a mum who runs, there are other things vying for priority. But there’s a green eyed monster sitting there, not going away, wishing I was smaller, lighter, more toned, less wobbly. I hate that I feel like this, and it’s not what I want my daughter to see. I want her to feel pride in the body she has, and all the amazing things it will allow her to do. The battle continues…

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