"You're so skinny".
I hear this all the time. Meant as a compliment, I know, but it really isn't, if you think about it. And let's face it...you'd never go up to an overweight person and say, "you're so fat!".
Plus, I'm not skinny. Full disclosure: I'm 5'5, 125#, BMI 22. This is considered healthy. Not skinny. But in the United States, our perspective is skewed, since >35% of adults are considered obese; >69% are overweight (source: CDC). We are so used to seeing overweight people and kids, for that matter. So when we see someone who is actually a normal weight, we may see them as skinny. In my practice as a pediatric nurse practitioner, I spend a lot of time trying to convince concerned parents (and grandparents) that their normal sized children are not too thin, that they are a healthy weight. It's a tough sell. Which is kind of crazy when you consider that being thin is a lot healthier than being overweight.
And in spite of the high rate of obesity in our country, women face enormous pressure to be thin. A visit with a teenage girl in my clinic last week prompted me to write about this. The patient came in for an evaluation because she passed out at track practice. When I reviewed her chart, I noticed that she had lost quite a bit of weight since her last visit 6 months ago. Her current BMI? 17. Now that's skinny.
Her exam and workup were completely normal. That didn't surprise me, since most teenagers don't have cardiac issues. When I talked to her about her eating habits, she told me she "doesn't have time to eat" or drink, for that matter. We talked about needing fuel for life and her activities. She nodded as I spoke, but at the end of our conversation, she just asked me when she could go back to track. During the visit, her mom sat there and smiled. She didn't say a word. To buy myself some time so I could talk with her father, I told the patient I was sending her to cardiology to be cleared to return to track. In the meantime, I called her father and shared my concerns with him. Used the words "eating disorder". He didn't buy it. He told me he'd watch her eat. I recommended a visit with our adolescent specialist, who is an expert with eating disorders. He told me his daughter was too busy for that. Sigh.
Everywhere you turn, there is pressure on women to be thin. And just being in shape isn't enough, you have to be ripped! Don't get me started on the "thigh gap" that was a big "thing" last year. When looking for running motivational pins on Pinterest and tumblr, I've come across a lot of so-called "Fitspiration"pins. The women in these pictures have amazing physiques, with ripped muscles, large breasts, and flat abs. I don't find these pins especially motivational because to me they portray unrealistic body images. But at age 51 I've accepted my body. I'm strong and I can still run, although I'm not as fast as I used to be. I'm not very flexible but I do yoga to help with that. When I was younger, I wasn't as accepting of my body, and I can see why women would look to these pictures to be motivational.
Here are some examples:
|No matter how hard most of us do yoga, this pose is simply unattainable!|
Last fall Lauren Fleshman posted on her blog a photo of herself from a runway show. She said out of the hundreds of photos taken, only a handful were actually good.
In response to criticism about her body looking so good merely 3 months after giving birth, she also posted photos which were unretouched, including this one:
I love that she did this. BTW, this blog post went worldwide! She definitely struck a chord with lots of women. Maybe if more celebrities did this, we all could let go of that perfect body image.
She also wrote about this for Runner's World, which you can read here. In this article, she encouraged women to post pictures of themselves for a project she's working on.
So in the spirit of Lauren Fleshman, here's 50 year old me (I'm in the middle, with 2 of my friends at the beach last summer). Letting it all hang out.
And instead of re-pinning unrealistic Fitspiration pictures, let's embrace the Saucony "Find your Strong" project. There's a blog, inspiring stories, photo competitions (check out the March Muddiness competition)...now this is inspirational!
And when you see a fit person, don't tell them they're "skinny".
Just tell them how strong they look.
How do you feel about your body? Do you bare it in a bikini or do you cover up? Do you look for fitness models for motivation?