What to Do With Too Much Body
By Z Zoccolante
As she sips her coffee back and tells me about training for the Ironman, a sentence slips out when referencing her shape.
“Sometimes when I look at myself I think too much, too much body.”
“What does that mean,” I ask.
“More than what I envisioned myself being, especially in comparison to my past self.”
She doesn’t have a negative body image and she says men compliment her a lot. She’s an intense athlete who trains daily and is compact and fit. It would seem that she has a nice balance of internal and external validation.
Yet, simply being a woman in our culture she’s bombarded with images of what women should strive to look like, and what that should weigh.
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She was always petite, but ever since training, her muscles have contoured differently. Her butt’s grown larger from cycling and she can’t fit into some of her pants anymore.
There’s more of her body than there used to be and more numbers appear on her scale. Although training has only added about five to seven pounds on the scale, the sight of the numbers makes her mind race.
“I feel like I’m going in the wrong direction,” she says.
On top of culture’s influence she has another layer of story. For years she was a coxswain, which is the crewmember who coordinates the rowing crew. The coxswain doesn’t row, so their weight must be pulled by everyone else. She was tiny and so she prided herself on being small and light, thus an efficient member of the team.
In the official rules for the men’s team, each coxswain must weigh a minimum of 125 lbs. If you weigh in at 100lbs, then on race day your boat will have 25lbs of weight added to it.
When she’d weigh in, she’d guzzle as much water as she could and wet her hair, hoping to increase the numbers on the scale, thus leaving less weight to be added to the boat.
Even though it’s been a while since she’s raced, the numbers on the scale have been engrained as a measurement of pride. When the number increased beyond her former self, a discomfort arose.
Being tiny and light was associated with a sense of pride that is similarly felt across our culture. A lot of the media is geared towards making women think they need to be something other than what they are. It sends messages that who we are isn’t good enough and we should change ourselves to fit a certain mold of beauty.
Men also receive messages, but for men it’s not about being thin, it’s about having the six pack and sexy muscles. Both sexes are marketed to, and men and women grow up indoctrinated with the images of what it means to be sexy and beautiful.
The problem is that a large percentage of people do not look like the uber skinny woman or the man with the eight-pack-abs. Twenty-ish years ago when Cindy Crawford was the image of supermodel beauty, the average fashion model weighed 8% less than the average woman. Today the average fashion model weighs 23% less than the average woman.
The difference for me when I was in my mid-teens, was the difference between being a normal high school girl and being anorexic, unhappy, and hating my body.
None of us can go back and change our past. We can’t go back and tell our 16-year-old selves the wisdom years have given us, but we can begin now.
Thinking that we have too much body is the same as thinking that we’re too much, that our emotions are too strong for others to handle, that we take up too much space. Mount Everest is the highest mountain in the world and yet I’ve never heard someone say, “Yeah that mountain is just too much. There’s too much mountain there.” We don’t speak about nature in these terms so why do we speak about ourselves this way?
A friend once told me that I should always appreciate what I look like now because when I’m thirty I’m going to wish I looked like I did at twenty-six. At forty I’m going to wish I looked thirty, and so on and so on. The moral’s clear. Humans tend to focus on the wrinkle, on the pocket of cellulite, on the five or ten pounds we want to lose, on the smaller dress size we long to fit into.
But what if we could love ourselves right now, with the wrinkles, cellulite, and extra pounds? What if we stopped buying into this shaming of ourselves, for not being this unrealistic image of beauty? What if our sense of pride had nothing to do with our weight or with the shape of our bodies? What if there was no “wrong” direction on the scale?
What if our bodies were these amazing vehicles that allowed us to accomplish great things in the world? What if instead of judging them and shaming them, we thanked them and took care of them like a friend?
How would your world be different if these “what ifs” became your reality?
Make these “what ifs” YOUR PERSONAL REALITY!
For more wisdom about Races, Mindset, Gear, Training, Fitness, Injury Prevention, and Nutrition see Long Distance Affair.