Is strong the new skinny? Can’t I be skinny and strong? Is skinny bad? How about when skinny becomes an obsession…how do you deal with the pressure as an athlete?
These are questions I’ve always had reeling in my head. I can only speak generally, and from personal experience: women in American society have an unbelievable amount of pressure placed on their looks. No matter how much the media tries to raise awareness about unrealistic body expectations, no matter how much we women think we know about media literacy, we still fall prey to the trap. The skinny obsession is a dangerous hole to fall down, it doesn’t matter who you are. However, when you are a female athlete, the trap becomes even more complex. You must be skinny, but also fit and strong.
You must be cut and lean at all times. That’s how fit, healthy athletes are supposed to look. That leaves female athletes in a quandary, for example:
#1: Different sports require different types of bodies. A gymnast and a marathon runner will not look alike because their sports demand different uses of their bodies.
#2: BUT, both gymnastics and running (and so many other female sports) place pressure on athletes to be thin.
Instead of the typical anorexic thought: “I will take up as little space as possible, make myself frail and small like a bird,”etc., you have “I need to be lighter to fly higher or run faster.”
This type of thinking wreaks havoc on female athletes. It doesn’t help that good looking female athletes get more endorsements, more air time, more celebrity-type status than non-traditionally “beautiful” female athletes, or “fat” females in general. I deal with those opposing forces, staying fit + strong while still trying to be thin, everyday. Coming from the place of having an eating disorder, the need to be thin and hungry used to be constant. Having a full stomach after a meal is still a feeling that I makes me uncomfortable. Society has conditioned me to associate fullness with gluttony, guilt and shame. But running has always saved me, and it doesn’t let me down, even now.
Tomorrow morning I anticipate having a pretty tough workout, being able to kick ass is more important to me right now than being thin. So I eat. I ate a big dinner of healthy, whole vegan veggies and steamed potatoes (seriously, about 600 calories of sweet potatoes!). They are going to give me the energy and stamina that I will be grateful for tomorrow as I run.
Society can try to tell me whatever it wants, but I am more than just a paper doll. I am a strong female athlete. I have goals to achieve, I have dreams to chase. I don’t have time or unfocused energy to waste on wanting to be thin or conform anymore. I am STRONG and I just happen to be skinny. End of story.
If you are out there, kicking ass and achieving your goals…don’t worry about what you look like. Worry about what you can do ❤