I have never run to lose weight. Some – possibly many – do. But I don’t. I run for lots of other reasons, and weight loss is (sometimes) a side effect of this running. But it’s not a motivation to run.
And with this, there is an enormous sense of liberation.
Because it’s about miles covered, not calories burned; it’s about running and eating (whatever the hell you want), not running to justify eating; it’s about strength, not size or shape or a number on the scales (I don’t own a scales); it’s about achieving a certain distance, not a certain dress size.
In short, it’s about what your body can do, not what it looks like.
There is an awful lot of freedom in this mindset, which is probably why I love running so much; why, even on my slow days (and trust me, there are a fair few of these), running offers a sense of escapism that’s otherwise gone AWOL in my life right now.
That’s not to say I’m immune to a spot of negative body scrutiny now and then. I mean, who is? I don’t like to admit it, but there probably isn’t a week that goes by that a body-hating comment doesn’t pass my lips: I don’t like my legs; my stomach is wobbly; my jeans are a bit tight. And all this even though, actually, I know I’m a healthy weight.
I’ve honestly never given these throwaway comments a whole heap of thought before. I mean, we all do it, don’t we? I’d mutter the words while staring at the offending body part in the mirror, before turning, forgetting about it and getting on with my day.
But recently I realised something.
A few years ago when these musings took place, no one was listening.
These days, people are listening.
My little boy is listening.
My baby girl is listening.
They are lying on the bed or sitting on the floor as I berate my legs or stomach or bum in the mirror. And they are listening to every word.
So what, exactly, am I telling them?
Am I telling my funny, inquisitive, non-judgemental little boy that, actually, appearance does matter and it’s OK to judge a girl on this? That it’s OK to judge himself on this?
Am I telling my perfect, happy, healthy baby girl that in the future her self-worth can be measured by her dress size, or the inches around her waist, or the circumference of a thigh?
This is the absolute last thing I want to teach them. But if I keep on with my own occasional negative body talk, this message is ever so slowly going to seep into their subconscious.
And so, enough.
I am starting a one-woman revolution in my own home: enough of the body-shaming, body-hating comments. Enough of the thigh-pinching, stomach-squishing prods and pokes.
I for one will no longer be adding to the notion that body shape and size is everything – my children will be bombarded enough with that from magazines, TV, the internet and advertising everywhere as it is.
Instead, I am going to arm them against it.
I am proud of my body: it has helped me climb mountains and swim in oceans; it has hiked up glaciers and run marathons; it has grown and given birth to two of the most important people in my world.
So, here’s to a lot less body negativity. And instead, a lot more strength and positivity.