Running From Body Image Issues

Hey everybody, this is Christine here for Sweet-Tooth Friday.  I was working on a healthy dessert recipe for this week, but I couldn’t stop thinking about a weird experience I had concerning body image issues…it all started off with the simple phrase:

Let’s plan a weekend and go to the beach!

christine running on beach photo 300x200A trip to the beach sounds innocent enough, but the words brought fear to my heart, followed by a wave of embarrassment.

Fear, because the idea of wearing a bikini in public makes me want to move to Iceland.  And embarrassment, well, because I can’t believe I’ve fallen into that female stereotype of feeling embarrassed about my body.

I guess that’s embarrassed times two.

I don’t want to be lumped in with the skinny girls eating their diet-chocolate-meal-bars and whining about how fat they are.  In fact, I’m not interested in losing weight at all; I love that my diet is filled with the steady nutrition of clean whole foods, and that I am never “on” a diet.  I love seeing the results in my running ability and endurance from week to week.

Yet here I am, feeling ashamed of a body that from every other angle I am proud.

Healthy—but happy?

So what gives?  This gut feeling of panic is annoying, because I like to believe I have a good head on my shoulders.  It’s not like I look at pictures of Heidi Montag and think “Yes, that is how I should look.”

There’s the phrase that bothers me—how I should look.  The focus of this blog, how I fuel my body, and how I exercise are otherwise focused on how I feel; the looking great is just an added bonus.

It’s funny, because two years ago I probably was the unhealthiest I’ve ever been, supplementing a diet of cigarettes and coffee with the occasional delivery pizza and gin martini.  Even though mentally and physically I felt like crap, I had no problem bearing all in a bikini then.  Looking back, I realize that my ultra-thin figure tricked me into believing that I must be taking okay care of myself.

But now, fifteen happy pounds later, I am a cigarette-free vegetarian future-law-studying bona-fide-runner, a title that should bring me all the confidence in the world.

julia louis dreyfus shape magazine april 09 220x300Yet here I am, uncomfortable in my new skin.  I guess I figured feeling so healthy would naturally bring about looking like someone on the cover of Shape Magazine, instant abs and all.

Confidence in three easy payments of $33.33

In a low moment while watching an infomercial (when most low moments are bound to occur) I considered springing the $100 for an AbRocket.  The idea of pumping up and down on shoddy brightly colored metal goes against all the themes of balance in my life.

Could the AbRocket ever bring that zen-like running trance I’ve come to rely on?  Could I be motivated to do crunches on this thing out of pure vanity?

Of course, I could tell myself the real motivation to tone my “core” (oh, that dreaded buzzword!) would be to improve my running, prevent injury by relieving my other muscles and joints as the sole workhorses, and possibly improve my strength as a camogie player.

But I would know the real reason I’d be doing it, and somehow directing exercise towards a superficial goal makes me feel ashamed.  It’s as if I’d be admitting that I am not above the crappy Cosmopolitan-Slimfast marketing.

In other words, I drank the girly kool-aid.

I like to imagine yoga as an ideal solution for my slightly irrational woes.  The ancient postures that move the body’s muscles together in meditation seem directly opposed to violently crunching six muscles into some sort of sexy pack.

The trouble is, I’ve never been able to get into yoga.  I find the positions confusing and always wondering if I’m hurting in a good way or just doing it incorrectly.  I would whole-heartedly welcome a recommendation for a good book or video to help me get over my beginners hump.

Does anyone else have nagging insecurities about an otherwise healthy body?  Do you other runners (male or female) grapple with perceptions of fitness?

I would really appreciate your thoughts on this.  The point here is not to fish for compliments or just beach and moan– I really would like to turn this anxiety into something productive instead of a pseudo-pity-party.  It’s just so frustrating to see my happy, well-reasoned, healthy lifestyle get rattled by something so silly as a bikini.

Thanks, and don’t worry—I’ll be back next week with some vegan cookies!

xoxo
Christine

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Comments

  1. Thanks so much for posting this, Christine. I think it’s something that everybody struggles with at some point, and it doesn’t disappear once you become active. Even though I’m in great shape after starting to run after my first pregnancy, there are still areas I am unnecessarily self-conscious of. My husband does Ironmans and I CANNOT believe the comments I hear from athletes about weight and food intake. Not to mention boob jobs?! Seriously. My motivation for getting over this stuff and being secure in my body image is my daughter. I don’t want her to struggle with the things I see other girls battling — I want her to be healthy, happy and love and treat her body well.

    Yoga is one thing you might try, but for core work pilates is another option that might like more? Being a mom and a runner, I don’t often have time for extra full workouts, so I do 75-100 crunches straight out of bed in the morning. Good luck!!
    .-= Megan´s last blog ..Poetry Friday: Gerard Manley Hopkins =-.

  2. Hmmm, I totally get the uneasy feeling you are having about feeling uncomfortable at the beach. I think most of us have those feelings you have. Like I can use some more toning of my butt and thigh area, what women doesn’t right?! lol! But still. Look around the beach next time, no one is perfect. The pictures of those women in those magazines we look at are always touched up so that they look flawless.
    You said you feel better than you did 2 years ago, use that confidence on the beach. It’s all about the having the confindence within yourself and not caring what others think. It doesn’t mean you have to wear a skimpy suit. It’s amazing what the right fitting bathing suit can do for us ladies.
    Looking forward to that cookie recipe!!!!
    .-= JoLynn-dreaminitvegan´s last blog ..!!! TWEET NOW for FARM SANCTURARY !!! =-.

  3. Great post Christine. And totally relevant to all women. At least all the women I know. I went Vegan for my health this year but I also secretly (or not so secretly) hoped that it would magically help me drop some pounds. Although I’ve lost a few (6 to be exact) it wasn’t quite what I was anticipating.

    It’s hard not to fall into the trap of worrying about what you look like and comparing yourself to others (both real women and the ones who have 10 plastic surgeries in one day) and it can feel like you are failing at this whole “healthy lifestyle” thing when you do. For me, when I catch myself doing this I try to react like I do when I fall off the Vegan wagon: remind myself that small slip ups don’t have to ruin the entire process. Having a negative body moment doesn’t mean you overall hate your body just like eating some cheese doesn’t mean I’m a terrible Vegan. It’s all about balance. Most days I eat well and think my body is great…some days I don’t want to get into a bikini or eat another plate of rice and beans! I just have to remind myself that it’s a journey and each day that I choose to live this lifestyle and appriciate my body for the miles my legs take me and the days it gets me through is one step closer to a healthy life. Thanks for the great post and making us think. :)

  4. If you’re interested in yoga I would suggest taking a few classes first. The instructor will be able to correct your postures and make sure that you won’t cause yourself any injuries. After taking my first yoga class I learned that my downward facing dog was all sorts of wrong. Now I know how to correctly do different poses and I’m more aware of things like keeping a straight back and all that good stuff.
    .-= Rebecca´s last blog ..Once upon a time =-.

  5. I appreciate this post! I’ve been vegan for over two years and just ran my first marathon in February. I’m training for a triathlon now, I’m in the best shape of my life, and yet in the back of my mind I still think, “If only I could lose 5 pounds,” or “If only my butt was a little smaller.” I hate falling into this trap, but I know that it’s not all my fault – with all the marketing out there, all the products promising to “fix you,” it can be really hard to accept and appreciate your body the way it is.

    I do practice yoga, and when your mind starts to wander during meditation you’re supposed to recognize the wandering and then move past it. I try to apply this to body image. “Oh, I just spent two minutes hating on my stomach for no good reason. Moving on.” It works pretty well and allows me to recognize how silly I’m being without beating myself up over it.
    .-= Chrissy´s last blog ..a dream deferred =-.

  6. Great post! You are not alone at all.
    I’m in the best shape of my life, physically and mentally, but just last week I was in a dressing room with some pretty harsh lighting and had a slight meltdown.
    I have to consistently remind myself how far I have come, and everything my body is capable of.
    Sure, at one time I was a lot skinnier, but I wasn’t eating, had no energy, slept all day, was extremely depressed, etc. I couldn’t even dream of what I am able to do today!
    .-= Lauren´s last blog ..Itty Bitty Falafel Burgers =-.

  7. Laura M...ski says:

    the only way i’ve managed to do any yoga was through the use of my Wii Fit. watching a computer-generated person doing the poses with me helps, for some reason.

  8. I love this post! Even the healthiest of us (including this trainer) have things about our body that we still want to work on. Then we are bombarded with all of these unhealthy but skinny images in the media that you can’t help but be affected. If I have a moment I stop and remind myself of all the wonderful things my body IS. I have strong legs, I can cycle for hours and I am not constantly on a “diet”. I am happy and healthy and so are you!
    .-= Pamela Hernandez´s last blog ..Family Fitness Intervention =-.

  9. You are so not alone. I think every one of us gets sucked into the thinner=happier game/the if only I lost X more/a bathing suit *shriek!*…at times.

    I try to listen to what I am drilling into my 2 little girls – the lesson and amazement of look what a healthy body can do when you feed it what it needs & wants….rather than any focus on weight and size.

    As for yoga, I’m the same. I’ve done it many, many times but it has never just clicked with me as a natural thing for my body. I feel much more in tune lifting and running.
    .-= Christine @ Grub, Sweat and Cheers´s last blog ..Polly Pocket Dress =-.

  10. Thank you for this wonderful post! I have these thoughts frequently… in fact, I began working out for superficial reasons and they still haunt me daily. However, just reading your post helped put things in perspective for me. I love my vegetarian diet, I love running, and most of all, I love how it has made me feel. Sure, I don’t have six pack abs, but I sure as hell look better than a lot of people out there and I will most likely live years longer than they will. I think it is okay to be superficial, just as long as you enjoy clean eating and exercise and how that makes you feel also. Thanks again for the wonderful post!

  11. Wow. I could have written this post with the underlying emotions that go with it. When I weighed 165, I thought, “if I could ever weigh 140, I would never ask for anything again.” Got to 140. “If I could only weigh 130…” I’m at about 127 and still having the same conversation. I’m running Boston on Monday and convinced I’ve sabotaged myself because I’m 4 lbs heavier than my last race. Enough! When I get to body focused I look at friends who I know want to lose weight but who I think are beautiful, sexy, and perfect the way they are. I have a good friend from Cuba who is “overweight” according to American ideals but she loves her body and it comes across. Attitude, I’m convinced, is everything.

  12. I think it’s normal and healthy to analyze your feelings of insecurity, especially with you’re dealing with something as appearance-focused as bearing all for the world to see in a bikini. When is it ok to not be a “perfect” 10? When you let health outweigh vanity? Or maybe when you no longer allow society to dictate what is perfect for YOU!

  13. We all go through this occasionally, Christine, and it gets worse as you get older. No matter how many weights I lift, or exercises I try, the underside of my arms will never be as firm as when I was younger. But I think the key here is to focus on health and feeling good. In reality no one looks like the magazine covers naturally. Either they’ve had massive work done surgically like Heidi Montag, or the photos have been touched up, like they did for Jamie Lee Curtis. I just try to be as healthy as possible and developed a “this is me- take it or leave it” attitude. I am good enough the way I am, and so are you!
    .-= meatlessmama´s last blog ..Sweet Potato Gratin =-.

  14. This is a great post. Thank you for writing it! I have struggled with body issues my entire life. And, although I HATE the fact that I still look at my body and am unhappy with it, I don’t know how to change my mindset. I wish I did. I just ran a 1/2 marathon and I’m training for a Half Ironman in August. And, although I know I am in pretty good shape, I still feel that my body could be more toned, skinnier, etc. My hope is that someday I will be completely content with my body and have the self confidence to wear anything I want without critiquing everything about it. I am actually very grateful that I have two boys because they will probably never have to deal with the mental anguish centered around body image.
    As for yoga, I love the class I go to at my gym! If you go to a class, make sure you tell the instructor you’re new and that you’re not sure how to do the moves. If it’s a good instructor, he/she will help you and lead you through the poses so you don’t get injured.
    .-= Aimee (I Tri To Be Me)´s last blog ..A week in review and other things too =-.

  15. I struggle with this every day! I think it has been worse lately because I am coming out of a long period of inactivity and have gained some weight. That and being inactive and losing all that fitness, strikes fear into my heart about bathing suits…I told a friend the other day that she won’t be seeing me at the pool this year! Than it made me sad how much I let my insecurities keep me from my relationships. When I was marathon training last year, I was discovering all the things my body could do…(things I never thought I could) and finding ways to really push myself. The exhilaration of that seemed to override my body issues some, because I was so energetic and loving my new athlete-ness…is that a word?….I do get sucked into comparing myself, I admit. I want to be healthy again..and these days..that includes running without injury and developing my endurance! Of course, I wouldn’t mind toning up on the way!

  16. This is a wonderful post! Like everyone I have moments where I feel super insecure with my body, feel like I should lose weight, etc. The fact of the matter is I am in the best shape of my life, but since that means I’m about 10-15lbs heavier than I was a few years back, I sometimes feel like I need to be skinnier. I just like to remind myself that my body is right for me and will carry me across the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday with a big smile on my face.

    Skinny does not mean healthy, which we all know, but sometimes we need reinforced a bit. You are beautiful and in my opinion brave for admitting to the negative thoughts and posting about it. :)
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..Sushi time! =-.

  17. Christine, thanks for sharing! 15 months ago I weighed 250 lbs so I had a LOT of body image issues. Now I’ve slowly gotten to a point where I’m healthier and more comfortable with myself. But even though I’ve lost a lot of weight, I still have some to go based on a “healthy weight” for my height. Some days I feel great about myself, but then when I went bathing suit shopping I was upset by my body — even though the size I bought was 10 sizes smaller than my previous one! I’m glad to know that others still struggle with this because it makes me feel more normal but also disturbs me because, as you said, why is it so important how we LOOK? I appreciate you sharing your story with us and you are great inspiration to me :) Thanks!!
    .-= Meredith @ Sweat Every Day´s last blog ..tearful day =-.

  18. I do have to tell you that I feel more comfortable in my body now than I have in years. I feel and know I look fit. I am getting closer to actually being fit. I would relish the “let’s go to the beach” plan the same way I was flattered when I went to pose nude for artists’ group.

    I am not skinny. I have only been working on fitness for three years. It has truly helped, though.
    .-= Nicki´s last blog ..Sex and the City 2 =-.

  19. I definitely still go through days of insecurity and I try very hard to just be so thankful for what my body can do, that usually helps me come back…but um I live in miami…at the beach…where I think only beautiful people live so that idea of a better body seems to always be in my face
    .-= RunToTheFinish´s last blog ..Opinions Wanted Friday: Anonymous Commenter =-.

  20. Thank you for this post. I too was a cigarette smoking, coffee chugging, delivery pizza munching “skinny girl” about 2 years ago. I was skinnier than I had ever been and thought that meant I was healthier than I’d ever been. I have been a vegetarian for almost 8 years and thought that was instantly going to give me power abs, thin legs and a perky butt. It wasn’t until I quit smoking, slowed down the coffee, enjoy delivery pizza every now and then and began running that I realized the extra 10 pounds I’ve put on this year means I’m finally where I should be. Am I comfortable in a bikini…you bet your perky ass I am!!! :) GREAT POST!

  21. This is a wonderful post! I myself have had the same trouble, and coming from a male’s perspective I can say it’s very similar to what you’ve described. I’ve fought with weight and when I finally lost a ton of it I kept thinking “just a few more pounds, I’ll be thinner and I’ll look better.” And that’s the kind of thing that pushed me to the other end of the extreme-obsession picture. I kept focusing on doing crunches and eating less so that the excess skin around my stomach would tighten up because everytime I sat down it would fold over and I’d still feel like the “fat kid.”

    I’ve come to realize how silly this is because now I’ve lost so much weight I don’t look too great in beach attire to begin with, but what’s important is that I’m learning to accept who I am and how I look. No longer do I envy my friends because they’re “thin” or “ripped,” but I’m happy with the abs I have, I’m becoming happier with the body that I was given by God and I’m finally learning that just because you have a 6-pack doesn’t mean you’re fit, happy, healthy, or anything of that nature.

    More people need to focus on individual beauty and differences in humans that are going to occur because it’s the “omg-you-don’t-look-like-[insert hot sexy person here]-you-shouldn’t-be-at-the-beach” kind of thinking that makes others more self-conscious and leads us to feeling bad about ourselves. If we could accept each other for who we are, we wouldn’t have to look to celebrities for how we’re supposed to look.
    .-= Daniel´s last blog ..Drained =-.

  22. I have these days frequently. I cry often because of the scary bikini. I was vegan ( tonight had a chicken sandwich) and am currently switching to Body For Life with some meat because I was using veganism as an excuse to restrict again. It’s sad because I FINALLY accomplished my goal of a sub 2 marathon and the body image overshadows it! UGH Everyone goes through this and it will get better…. The question is if everyone feels this why then WHY do we insist on being model thin? Heck Skinny Runner showed a picture of the SI cover model and she was just a regular girl!

  23. I have to say as a fitness instructor I have also felt that insecure feeling, moreso since moving to CA, USA where the motto seems to be “if you aren’t happy we have surgery to fix it”. I had a 10 year break from fitness (for many reasons) and in that time put on 30 lbs. In Dec 2008 I decided that I wanted to pursue a fitness career again but knew I needed to regain my fitness, hopefully lose the 30 lbs or at least change the body composition, to FEEL better. I wasn’t happy with how I looked or felt with that extra padding. Now 16 months later I lost the 30 lbs but most importantly I am a whole different size than before because my body composition changed. I lost some fat, gained lots of muscle and in certain lights yes I have a barely visible 6 pack that I worked hard for! I actually eat more now than I did 2 years ago, it’s just clean filling food.

    For me personally my body issues have come from the amount of boob jobs I’ve seen here in the US. Now, as a small breasted woman, I am in the minority but I will NOT succumb to surgery for many reasons. It’s not healthy, or natural (2 things I am supposed to be an ambassador for as a fitness professional) and if I got surgery I’d continue to perpetuate the myth of the ‘perfect figure’. I rather FEEL great, than look ‘great’.

    We as humans are ALL different, sure we could get surgery and look like each other, but where would be the fun in that? Plus you can guarantee that every “seemingly perfect shaped woman” out there has some insecurities about her own body. It’s just the way we’ve conditioned ourselves! Rise up, accept your body, go natural, go vegan/vegetarian, go healthy!

    ps. those ab machines don’t work, save the $$. just do some planks, scissors, in-outs, ab curls and cardio.
    .-= Di´s last blog ..C25K week 7 day 2 =-.

  24. This is a great post. I’m currently training for my first marathon. I’ve already run four halves in the past year. I was a former varsity athlete in both college and high school. My body fat is below average, my friends say they want to be as small as me, but I still don’t love how I look. I hate that tummy pudge, I poke at my belly, and glare at my reflection. I used to love my body, and it had nothing to do with my size or shape. I just felt good and strong. Even though my body can do amazing things, sometimes I really take it for granted, because it doesn’t look like what you’d see on the cover of a magazine.
    .-= Katherine @ Lipgloss and Spandex´s last blog ..Review of Click Espresso Protein Drink =-.

  25. And to be somewhat contrary … if you’re mentally ok (i.e., don’t have an obsessive personality), use that vanity, body insecurity, and desire to look like a Shape cover model to your advantage — just be ok with it when that perfection is not reached. It’s tough to stay in shape and be healthy (especially, when you get to law school). Sometimes being healthy will be all the motivation you need … and sometimes not. Vanity can be good, I hope to always care about my appearance because it motivates me to change things up when I start to get complacent – e.g., I usually run a lot more during the winter and March but didn’t this year because of work (not the snow, loved that) & despite probably my best veg diet ever, I gained a few pounds around the love handles that I didn’t like in the mirror … and it made me realize I need a new exercise regime. My mantra is that I’m happy with my body, but I want to be happier with it (just like a I think I’m a good person, but could be better one). I’ll never attain the perfect body, but I’ll be a healthier person for trying, … and I won’t beat myself when I don’t attain it, just keep on trying.

    BTW, running is great, but do mix it up if you wanna look like Julia-Louis Dreyfus’s airbrushed Shape cover. Just like a good vegetarian diet is based on a variety of foods, doing the same exercise over and over has diminishing returns. As suggested earlier, pilates may be more to your liking, or try polymetrics, TRX (I have one, it’s a great & pretty cheap workout) or other forms of strength training. Also, if you look at olympic athletes, the sprinters have the best all around toned bodies, speed training = strength training for your “core” & legs.

    Another reason for my couple extra lbs was that I neglected my speed training the last couple months and did no runs beyond 4-5 miles since the fall. I picked up my training in the last week (two runs) & need to do more since a race I’ve done for 10+ years in coming up on 4-24, all trail, 1/2 mara, followed by 10k, followed by 5k … & a 4 mile fun run that afternoon. So, that old standby of training goal is still a good way to mix things up when work/school/life gets in the way.

    And, oh yeah, your father was right, nice post and Congrats Matt & Erin.

  26. hi~ just found your blog and wanted to say hi~~
    glad to “meet” another phd student who has a secret life (blogger) and a runner!

  27. I don’t know a single woman who DOESN’T have body image issues. Yes, the beach is a scary place – I think we all panic a little at the thought of that first beach trip of the summer. I look around my family and every woman (I come from a big family, so there are lots of us) has these issues to some extent. Everyone is always on a diet or just trying to lose a few pounds – and a couple of them are already quite thin. It just seems to be ingrained into us – and it’s kind of sad.
    .-= Kate´s last blog ..Whole Foods To Begin Wine Cork Recycling Program =-.

  28. i feel like i could have written this post! i am going to the beach NEXT WEEKEND and although i am excited, i am slightly freaking out because i feel very uncomfortable in my bathing suits right now. and like you, i am at a very healthy weight, and i am in shape. but i am about 15 pounds more than i was in college (graduated in may) and i am not comfortable in my skin yet. i’m going to the beach with some close friends and my boyfriend so there is zero chance of anyone judging my non-perfect abs. i just can’t shake the idea that i’m supposed to look like a magazine cover girl (or at least the skinner girl i was at age 19).

    also, i feel the same way about yoga (sorry i can’t help you out!). i really really want to like it, but i am very inflexible and it is frustrating and not really relaxing for me. i keep going hoping i will improve, or one day i will finally “get it,” but i’m not there yet. running is the best form of meditation for me :)
    .-= Tyler´s last blog ..Broken Legs and the Sandwich Meat That’s Going to Kill Me =-.

  29. Chris H. says:

    Well put Daniel, I know exactly how you feel. I got into running, triathlons, and even partially vegetarianism to loose weight. I realized though after I had loss too much weight that it was having a negative effect on my performance and overall health. Regardless of what Men’s Health and other magazines tell us, Thinner does not mean better, healthier, or faster. However, I still feel uncomfortable in my skin regardless of weight. There is something always in the back of my mind that picks out one or two imperfections in my body or performance. Like most of you have said, we have to accept these faults and ourselves or we will never escape this cycle.
    Yoga has helped me relax and get rid of some of these anxious, negative scruples.

  30. Caveman would be rolling over in his grave (if he had one, I suppose) to know that the major problem with modern-day Americans is that there’s too much food!

    I can’t possibly preach from a pedestal – I’ve been there and still am there some days. What helps me more than anything else is knowing that those “perfect” girls have problems we wouldn’t want (Elin Woods – hello! have you seen her?!).

    You’ve got all your limbs and your health – don’t let your perception of the thoughts of other people (that don’t matter, if you think about it) ruin your day at the beach.
    .-= Lisa´s last blog ..One Adoption Event: A Small Success =-.

  31. Congrats on the birth of your baby!! :)

    Yeah, I have body image issues too though I’m otherwise healthy. It nags me and I try to push it out of my head but sometimes I let it get to me.
    .-= Ashlei´s last blog ..Earth Week Challenges Part 2 =-.

  32. Yes, yes and yes. And, it’s not just appearance. I have a persistant belly and I’m convinced if I could just lose two inches around the middle, my pace would improve dramatically.

    Every other day I do a set of 90 crunches (on a balance ball), 90 reverse crunches (with the balance ball between my legs) and 90 oblique crunches. My abs are rock hard (not 6-pack, but strong), and still the pudge persists. I’ve read aerobic exercise is really the only way too effectively burn belly fat, so I figure my weekly runs will take care of that, but still I can’t trim those two inches. I blame my addiction to sweets, but what’s life without a little sugar? ;)

    As for yoga, a good instructor is key. If it’s abs you want to work on, do the boat pose. If it’s legs, warrior pose will help. I find Iyengar’s book is the best yoga reference there is:

    http://www.amazon.com/B-K-S-Iyengar-Yoga-Holistic-Health/dp/1405322357/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1271556351&sr=8-5

    But seriously, do the boat. And be proud. If your body feels good, don’t let your mind hate. I don’t even know you and I’m proud of you. Big kudos for turning your lifestyle into a healthy, productive one. Let your skin soak in those rays.

    Peace and love.

  33. It’s not just women!
    .-= AndrewENZ´s last blog ..Best Running Song Ever? =-.

  34. I totally teared up from this post. I even wrote about this same issue. I found a really good bikini helps, even if it costs more than I like to spend. I also know what makes my belly bloat out and try to be extra careful to avoid those.
    Sometimes I do sometimes get envy at the Victoria Secret looking girls at the pool…especially when I put so much time and effort into my health. But then I remember I could run a marathon and they probably couldn’t run a lap.
    Also (this sounds ridiculous), walking around my apartment in the bathing suit (or just your room) helped me get comfortable just wearing it and seeing myself in it.
    Good luck and keep us updated-it is really wonderful to know I’m not alone in my insecurities.

  35. Oh, the struggle for self-acceptance. My entire life women have called me “skinny” and said they envied me. It’s ironic because I’ve never felt thin and indeed, always felt that my little pot belly made me look fat and made my clothes hang poorly on me. I worried that someone would ask if I was pregnant (it did happen once). I’ve never felt comfortable in a bikini and avoid bathing suits in general if possible (I’ll wear shorts). I own several “body suckers” that I think don’t suck in enough! I’m 46 years old, wear a size 4 and still feel fat and I don’t know why I’ve always felt this way. As I’ve gotten older, when I find myself hating my body, I try to remember that I’m my own harshest critic and being healthy and fit is truly what matters. But it’s a struggle and like you, I also feel embarrassed about “drinking the girly kool-aid.” It does help to know there are so many like me who struggle to overcome the “I must have a perfect shape or I’m not good enough” thinking. Great post.

  36. Wow, Christine! I really enjoyed reading your post. I don’t know why I was so surprised to hear that you used to smoke, but I guess most of us aren’t born healthy eating Vegetarians. I used to smoke too and struggled to make myself exercise because I wanted to lose weight. I quit smoking because it made me feel awful and a friend got me into running that same year. It wasn’t until I was running because it made me feel good that I could do it on a regular basis.

    Anyway, I became injured last November and started doing yoga every day. I started with Bikram (hot yoga) which is really intense and a lot to jump into, but it is very addicting (I went 32 days in a row as a personal challenge) and the teachers are always ready to answer questions after the class. They pay special attention if it’s your first time too. I also never got into the other yoga classes I had been to previously. You may also like a Vinyasa class. I prefer classes that are in a warm room even if they aren’t 105 degrees F. I also really like CorePower Yoga, but not sure if there is one in your area.

    I want so badly to be in great health and I was embarrassed for a while that I secretly wanted to lose weight. I think feeling good and looking good go together and it’s okay if you want to work on your abs, but I hope you have fun at the beach even if you don’t.

    Kimber

  37. Oh Christine, I luv you for writing this post. I hear (and feel) your pain, sister! Like some of the other commenters, I am also a personal trainer. I am a very active and eat great. Unfortunately, from having competed in Figure competitions in my past, I’ve been my physical best (from a ‘looks’ standpoint, not necessarily ‘healthy’ standpoint.) But the stage pics don’t equate into ‘real life’ or ‘daily living’ for me. It was SO tough to get ‘stage ready’ and in my head I KNOW this, but I still compare where I am now to those pics. I only weigh 113 lbs but I seem to have a Jekyll and Hyde body: the front of me looks great, then the BACKSIDE is a whole other beast all together. Why do we have to have the lumpy bumpy cellulite even when we are fit individuals? It’s so frustrating. So every day it’s a mental challenge for me to embrace my body as it is, be happy that it’s HEALTHY and know that I do what’s right for this ‘temple’ of mine.
    Anyway, just wanted to say you’re not alone. We all (or at least most of us) experience the same thing so don’t beat yourself up, and celebrate how all the GREAT things you are doing for your body by no longer smoking or eating meat!
    Love this post, and thanks again for sharing with us!
    .-= Shari B. (FitFeat)´s last blog ..Blogger Meet-Ups and Beachside Running =-.

  38. I’m a little late to the party here but stumbled upon your article and found it interesting.

    I’ve come from a 90 pound weight loss nearly 10 years ago to be as fit and healthy as I’ve ever been in my life, I’ve run a dozen marathons, love being outdoors and exercising, but I’ve also come to realize that that perfect body is something that while is attainable, would be nearly impossible to maintain. at 8% body fat, I can see part of my abs, but unless I starve myself there’s no way I’m going to see a six-pack.

    I think it’s unfortunate that so much is marketed at both men and women always showing the perfect stomach, butt, etc.

    As much as I figure most women might not care to see a guy wearing speedos, to me that’s sort of the ideal for myself, that I could wear a pair and have 100% confidence in how I look to myself.

    And to be honest, I’ve grown more comfortable with myself, I don’t have anything hanging over, but there is always that nagging little bit in the stomach area that puts me off a little bit.

    At the same time I’ve had so many compliments on how great of shape I’m in. And I can also look at a woman in a bikini that doesn’t have the perfect body, but I see in her expressions, the way that she carries herself that brings out a beauty that isn’t all about the body alone.

    I think it’s the mindset that a group of people or someone always judging us negatively when perhaps they really aren’t.

    As I’ve felt more and more confident in my own body, I wear less and less when I’m running, biking or swimming. It’s not an effort to show off, it’s more showing that I’m simply confident enough in myself to let myself be all out there, regardless of what others might think.

    I do think a combo of many different forms of exercises helps a lot, but then I’m exercising at least 10 hours a week and that little bit of stomach just isn’t going anywhere, so I’ve claimed it as mine and I’ll live with it.

    I’ll wear the speedos, the lycra short shorts, the tight shirts and I feel better about myself. I’m not trying to hide anything, don’t care what others might have to say, and life keeps getting a little better in that area.

    I’m 40, still act and feel like I’m 20, will leave the 6-pack abs to the people that want to live their lives on some restricted diet, and keep having fun.

    As a guy, I find the most attractive women are the ones with a smile, a sense that they are confident with themselves, and the few extra pounds that you’re focusing on so much, well, I don’t see that at all.

    Obese is one thing, that says that you just don’t care enough about yourself.

    I’ve come to realize that the perfect model body, if and when you see it, likely comes with a personality that’s as exciting as a bowl of bran cereal.

  39. Christine,
    This is a problem most women face at one point or another. I think it is great that you realize that it really is about how you feel and not about how you look. Strength comes from within, as does true beauty. If you want to tone your abs I suggest the basic plank. The plank will tone your core much better than crunches and will strengthen your entire body, not just your abs.

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