December 4th, 2012

running, shoes

More random thoughts about fitness and body image

A new Stumptuous rant is a wonderful thing.

I got a good chuckle out of Krista's observations on male ectomorphs. Like her, I married one. I used to be jealous of his apparent inability to retain body fat and ability to gain strength just by looking at a dumbbell, but now I have accepted that he is just magic, and I might as well be upset that I'm not a unicorn.

But what this rant is really about is how strong the lure of unrealistic body image can be, even for smart people who are trying to do the right things for all the right reasons.

It's really weird. For me (and I think for a lot of us), getting into fitness was initially this tremendous liberation from having to worry about how my body looked. It was all about what my body could do. I reveled in each new accomplishment. Running a 5K! Doing a strenuous hike! Being able to put my own suitcase in the overhead bin on a plane regardless of how much crap I'd packed! Still being able to pick up my nieces and nephews as they get bigger!

Then I put on some muscle. Initially, I was thrilled. I had biceps! My thighs actually had a shape!

And then I started think things like, "Hmmm, well, my biceps are cute, but they'd be cuter if I lost some more body fat." And I found myself thinking about whether I should try counting calories or maybe check out that intermittent fasting thing that all the cool kids are doing.

Fortunately, I quickly realized that a) counting calories drove me bonkers back when I thought that I desperately needed to lose weight for my health. If I couldn't make it work when I thought it would save my life, the odds that I could make it work in order to look cuter in a tank top were nil and b) no matter how cute I look in a tank top, nobody is going to want to hang out with me in the kind of mood I get in to if I skip breakfast.

So, I nipped that line of thinking in the bud and went back to thinking about how cool it is to be able to carry all my groceries into the house at once.

But it's still a reminder that no matter how much you think you've got your head on straight about these things, the siren song of unrealistic expectations is always there.