Face it: every single one of us who have ever run a race have sized up our competitors on the line next to us.
We all do it. It’s the nature of our sport to undergo disordered eating tendencies to be as lean as possible. Sure we all try to go into races feeling as confident as possible, but how many times – even if it wasn’t standing on the start line – that you have looked around at other runners at a meet and made a comment on how skinny another person is? We do this all the time. We do this more than we think we do this.
Even if you make a comment on how small another person is, and think you’re not shaming yourself or them in any way, what good is that comment doing? Why does it need to be said? We don’t sit around at meets and go, “Oh my gosh look at the average-height of that person is!” Like no. That would be weird. So why is it so normal and accepted to talk about others’ bodies like that?
The game of body-checking revolves around the theme: how does my body compare to the rest of these athletes? Who has the most “ideal” runner’s body type here? Who looks like the faster runner here? Problem with this is that there is no “ideal” runner’s body type. A runner’s body is a body that runs. If you’ve bought into the idea that you have an ideal race weight (check this out!) and need to diet to reach an body weight lower than your set point (Robyn has a great post on this!), well that’s just a bunch of baloney.
We don’t know what’s going on in other people’s lives that have brought them to their current weight. When I was at my lowest “ideal runner’s weight”, I hated my life. I had people praising me almost everyday for how “fit” I looked, how much I “looked like a runner”, but yet I was too afraid to eat even a bite of my favorite foods and wanted to gain weight more than anything. When we keep associating these traits as an “ideal runner”, we feed the problem.
We also tend to look at other athletes and make assumptions about their eating habits and willpower. Just because a person has less body fat than you does not mean they are healthier. It does not mean they have more willpower. It means that they have a lighter force of gravity weighing upon their being and that may or may not mean they will run faster than you. You have no idea what they have done in their life to get to that weight, what type of training they have done, how much food they eat, how happy they are with themselves. All factors that play more into a race result than the size of a uniform.
Until we can get this through our brains, we’re constantly going to be holding ourselves back from ultimate food freedom and body positivity. If this has been something that you constantly find yourself doing.. maybe this will be a good reminder.