On body image, sports, and fashion

WARNING:  This is likely to be a rambling and disjointed post.  Lots of stuff jumbling around in my head and I feel the need to get it out, but it might not be as cohesive as I’d like. [oh, and this has been in draft form for over a week... oops!]

I’ve been thinking a lot about body image lately.  Much of my thinking was sparked by this post from Jane which links to another post where a “bigger” girl was bullied online for wearing leggings.   As I’ve already established, I refuse to wear leggings.  But that’s not the point.   The point is that for the first time in, well, ever… I’m pretty comfortable in my own skin.

There are a variety of reasons for this (I’m at a comfortable weight, my boyfriend loves my curves, I’m secure enough to not want to be stick thin), but I think the biggest contributing factor is my participation in sports.  Through running and roller derby, I’ve learned to appreciate my body more as a tool and less as an object.  Not exactly a ground-breaking revelation, but still significant to me personally.

As much as sports have helped me feel comfortable with myself, it’s interesting to me how many *other* people assume that my running (and–to a lesser extent–derby) is about weight loss.   As if there is no reason–other than “looking good” — to maintain an active lifestyle.

People are always shocked when I tell them that I’m not running to lose weight.  Yes, I could stand to lose a couple of pounds… and it would certainly help my finishing times, but that’s really not why I run.   I run for the accomplishment, for the feeling of pushing myself towards a goal.  If it helps me look better in my jeans, great… but that’s not really the point.   I lost a whopping 2 lbs during my half-marathon training.  When I told someone this, they said: ‘well, it’s better than nothing.”

It’s also interesting to me how many people commented on how I *looked* after my half-marathon and not how I did.    I’m not one to turn down a compliment, and I really did look better than I performed, but I worry about people’s perceptions of me.   I finished that race feeling strong and confident and athletic… and I get “you look great.”   There’s deeper meaning  to unpack here, but I’m not sure I know where to start.

While thinking about all of this, I posted a question on facebook.  I asked my fb friends to name the compliment (physical or otherwise) they get most often.  Some of them happily played along while others made jokes.  One girl even said: “my legs and my hair– why do I feel weird saying that?”  We feel weird saying that because, as women (most of my respondents to my informal poll were women), we’re taught to be shameful of our bodies and to not “brag” about ourselves.  Note that I didn’t ask what people liked most about themselves… just what other people tell them about themselves.

Which brings me to the “fashion” part of this post.  The ladies over at academicchic are hosting Dress Your Best Week, which encourages people to dress to highlight a favorite body part.    They contend that we often dress to “hide” parts of our bodies that we find less-than-desirable, but we need to do more to flaunt those that we like.   To participate, I had to name 5 body parts I would like to highlight.    I apparently can’t follow directions, so I chose:  breasts, shoulders, and skin.

This week has completely gotten away from me, but look for a Foto Friday post highlighting at least one of my best features.

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4 responses to “On body image, sports, and fashion

  1. Cari,
    Great post. I’ve read it twice now, and continue to think about it…

    I want to come back and comment a bit more when I have ample time to share my thoughts. I even went back and reread your recap post just now, to see if I was one of the commenters who focused on appearance… (I was nervous b/c I thought I mentioned how awesome you looked – meaning radiant – after the race.) Thankfully, I wasn’t.

    Anyway, I get where you’re coming from, body image is a subject of importance to me, not being a size 2 or being built ‘like a runner’ – a phrase I’ve had to work at removing from my general conversation(!).

    I even posted recently on the Turtles blog on the subject of appearance “Beauty, Distorted,” under “Memorable Posts” ~

    http://www.runningcirclesaroundtheturtles.com/2010/04/tuesday-ttrs-quality-balance-beauty.html

    I’m headed to work, but will drop back in on this topic. Until then, have a healthy day!

    HUGS from Orlando!
    r.

  2. Thanks, Robin. I should probably clarify my comment about people telling me a I looked good after the race. It’s not that I *mind* the compliment, I was just surprised by it. Most of the people who commented were facebook friends, many of whom hadn’t seen me in a few years.

    After I posted this, I noticed one of the academic chic ladies used her “dress my best” day to highlight her legs. She’s a runner, too, and her thoughts were quite in line with how I’ve been thinking lately.

    http://www.academichic.com/2010/05/12/12-may-2010-2/

  3. Thanks for the shout-out, Cari! I’ve been meaning to comment on this for a while, but I have so many thoughts about it that I may need to write a full-blown blog post. Agreed with Robin — great post!

  4. Thanks for participating in this and spreading the word!

    And yay for fellow runners! I totally agree that looking better is just a by-product of running, the main reward is the feeling better and being healthy and strong. Those are the reasons that I keep running, as well as the positive mental benefits that come with feeling fit and strong and healthy. The rest is just icing on the cake.

    S.

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