It is rare that I let my husband (or anyone) take pictures of me. While his taking pictures makes me feel noticed, and generally that’s a good feeling, I often hate how I think I look in these snapshots.
Such was the case this weekend as we were practicing our hill sprints in the mountains, as he took a few shots with his phone and I sprinted up the hill in the hot, summer heat.
“Don’t post those.” I said as I ran back down the hill. “I’ll probably look fat.”
“Okay.” My husband looked a little abashed as he put his phone away. “I think you look like a badass.” *Yes, my husband is the nicest guy in existence.*
I mulled over his words the rest of the day. I had felt like a badass, running up that hill over 20 times, going so fast I was almost tripping over myself. Even the pups we were dog sitting refused to continually run up and down the hill with us. My legs burned, my lungs burned, but my stomach stayed put. A new sensation after my initiation into sprint training a month ago.
These are small victories. Shaving seconds off my splits, running up hills I’d previously walked, being able to sustain my speed for longer intervals, not feeling like puking. But it still comes back to this: How I look. This makes me both ashamed and frustrated. Rather than focus on my abilities, I choose to focus on my aesthetics.
As I struggled with these pictures all day, I finally came to a decision. I would post these photos, not for the accolades or the self-affirming “likes” on my profile, but rather to show others that your size does not need to stop you from accomplishing your physical goals. Often times, I feel like I need to be “in shape” (read: thin) before posting any photos that could advertise my health. But if success is only measured by our waistlines, how many people will opt for sitting at home rather than becoming active? That is such a narrow (no pun intended) margin for measuring our health.
I feel awful when people ask me, “Don’t you have to be in shape before doing ____?” (Insert: CrossFit, trail running, biking, hiking, spin classes, the list goes on) My heart sinks as I try to explain that, no, it has nothing to do with your current ability level and EVERYTHING to do with your current willingness level. Are you willing to give “x” a solid effort? Yes? You’ll be fine.
But am I part of the problem? Sending people mixed signals when I say, “Come join us! We take you as you are!” while in the same breath telling my husband, “Don’t post anything that makes me look heavy, weak, or unsuccessful.” This ridiculousness needs to stop. If I am to help change the face of health and body image, I need to be willing to use my body as an example of someone who can be active and healthy while at the same time not look like a model on a fitspo post.
Physical change takes time. If you are consistent, you will see positive changes take place. For people with PCOS though, sometimes that change takes so long that frightens us away from the long road ahead. So let’s decide right now that our goals on this journey will not depend solely on our losing weight. Our milestones can and should be celebrated before, during, and after any aesthetical change takes place, because I believe that in doing so we’re sending a firm message to those we come in contact with that we will not succumb to self-censorship. We refuse to Photoshop our success, shaming ourselves into anything less than our hard-fought badass status.
So do me a favor, don’t comment on this post with anything referring to looks, yours or mine. Rather, tell me about something you couldn’t do a month ago, a year ago, be it physical, mental, or any other form your health takes. I am far more concerned with us celebrating our strength, pictures or no, than our looks. I hope these thoughts give you the courage to get up and move, regardless of your size and shape. Don’t let self-censorship frighten us into the lie that being active is only for the already fit. Live your life, enjoy how you move, then share it with those you love. #nofilterneeded
Author’s note: This blog and its contents come from many of my cumulative experiences, training, and research. I would be remiss if I did not point others to a blog and movement that has influenced many of my thoughts, habits, and beliefs. Much of my terminology I learned from the wonderful Kite sisters over at Beauty Redefined. Please check out their work for more in-depth articles on self-objectification, and how to overcome social media pressures.