I have worked very hard to foster a positive and healthy body image, and now that I am on force rest, I am working very hard at protecting my healthy body image. Here is how I am keeping a positive mindset.
Though I’ve been trying to keep the injury talk less to the fore (both in my life and on the blog), today, I really want to talk about the effect of injury and forced rest on my healthy body image. Before I jump in, I know I have readers who may be a bit sensitive to talk of body image and appearance. Please use your best judgement and discretion.
How Marathon Training Fostered a Positive, Healthy Body Image
I have admittedly struggled with my weight and my perception of and trust in my body over the years. I do not hide this. But marathon training, running marathons, and now, marathon coaching, have helped me to heal in ways that I could never have begun to understand when I thought, “Well, I’ll never be in this kind of shape again, so why not?” and signed up for my first marathon in 2013. I’ve even come a long way from my post “Take a Self Love Selfie” the following summer.
If you haven’t read those posts, I encourage you to go back and give them a look. I think that they provide a pretty sufficient look at how my understanding of my body has changed over the years.
While I’ve not struggled with body loathing or ever tried to punish myself for how I looked, I will freely admit that I, as just about every human in today’s society has, have struggled with the superficial appearance of my body. Most people look at me now, in my more petite form, and think that there is no way that I could have ever been overweight or fat. I have not been obese, but growing up, I was chunky. I might have always been moving, but I was rather competitive and would try to out-eat my brother, who was blessed with one of “those” metabolisms. Furthermore, as we all know, I tend to eat anything in front of me.
When I first got sick with Crohn’s Disease, I didn’t lose a ton of weight all of the sudden. I pretty much weighed the same thing for a few years, actually (it just wasn’t necessarily good weight, if that makes sense), until steroids caused me to gain weight, and instigated my desire to get healthy. Both the desire for greater overall heath and, yes, vanity, motivated me to look at my eating and to regiment my activity.
To make a very long story very short, I have had great fluctuations in weight over the years: I have put on 20 lbs in a matter of weeks due to medications, and I have dropped 20 lbs over the course of a few months due to illness. I have been scared of food and what it might do to me.
But running, and specifically running and training for marathons, completely altered my approach to my body. I have learned that I don’t have to be afraid of it, that I can mentally handle the challenges of a daunting task–you know as well as I do that putting on weight on purpose can be very daunting for a female and one who also associates weight gain with her body going out of control. But through marathon training, I slowly, but very surely got over my fears of food making me sick, and most importantly, food making me fat or feeling out of control. I lost my need to control absolutely everything–largely as a result of increased happiness within my life. I no longer felt the urge to control “the one thing I could control”–my food.
How My Healthy Body Image Has Changed Since I’ve Been Injured
So now I’ve been unable to run for well over 2 months (last run was October 29), and I’ve been out of the cardio game since December 4 as well as unable to lift my lower body. Have/how have my relationships with my body and my body image changed?
Superficially, I will admit that I am not 100% happy with how I look. This fall, I was THRILLED with how looked and felt: strong, capable, and so so healthy. Still a little bit small, but I had put on weight during training, increased my muscle mass, and though I would have liked my arms a bit stronger, I looked #triplesnap bitchin in my humble opinion. I love my “marathon booty” and “marathon legs.”
Since then, my body, though not that far from the overall shape that it was 3 months ago, is different. It is much softer, much squishier, and the weight has redistributed. I look down, and instead of seeing muscle with padding, I see padding with muscle, if that makes sense. I still see the muscle, but the weight is in different places, and I am just softer–not necessarily a bad thing!
Additionally, I miss feeling confident and strong. I know that I still look fine, but not being able to demonstrate strength and endurance and “get my sweat on” is really taking its toll on me from a mental stand point: Alex and I had this discussion yesterday that I would, in complete honesty, be totally OK with my weight gain if I was able to run and workout and feel empowered in my weight gain.
Because that is just the thing: running to me = capability, it equals empowerment. It is something that I never thought I could or would do and or enjoy, and it is my way to gauge my body. Running taught me to believe that I could live beyond expectations. Every step, every mile, I am grateful for. But suddenly, that gratitude doesn’t seem be enough.
How I am Promoting Healthy Body Image During Time Off
First, I want to encourage anyone who is dealing with a negative body image to seek the help of a counselor.
In fact, that is one of the first things that I am doing in order to counteract the negative thoughts that are creeping in: I am talking about my body image. I have been open with Alex since I started having the thoughts, and just getting the words out there helps so very much. It isn’t about fishing for compliments: talking about your body and your body image with someone else who loves you and can support you is imperative to maintaining a healthy body image.
Don’t poke and prod at your body, mentally or physically. Do not, under any circumstances, stand in the mirror and pinch an inch, or jiggle your wiggle (unless you like to do that, and then, go for it). If certain clothes are making you feel like a chub-a-lub, don’t wear them. Just don’t do it. Plenty more clothes in that closet, pick one of them.
Find some activity, whatever if may be, that makes you feel mentally and physically empowered and capable. As stupid as it sounds, going and doing that damn hand bike, while accomplishing very little, gives me that full hour of movement that I so desperately crave.
Take care of yourself by eating healthy foods and keeping up with your appearance. We all know the self perpetuating cycle of eating something terrible and then letting that trigger you to feel more terrible and then throwing in the towel and before you know it you’ve eaten the whole bag and then you feel terrible about yourself and you just keep on eating and then you…. Binging is a first class ticket to Hatesville, and you do not want to go there. Give in to your cravings like you normally would, but don’t go wild–it will just lead to the other terrible half of that coin: restricting.
When I wrote about how/if my eating has changed during my injury, it was incredibly important to me to express that the changes in my diet were the natural result of my decreased appetite from decreased activity, and not the result of restriction in order to control or punish myself. I stand by that. It is natural to seek out control in one area of your life if the other areas are in flux. But find a more productive outlet, such as reading running books or developing a side hobby.
Give yourself a break and remember: this is temporary. Remember all of the things that you have battled back from in the past–you can battle back from this.
So take a deep breath, put on clean clothes, and find a way to conquer the day, even in the smallest way.How do you protect your body image during injury? #runchat #fitfluential #sweatpink Click To Tweet
Have you gone through a period like this before? How did you cope with your feelings?
Do you feel that you have a healthy body image?