On Keeping It Real

I stay away from talking about weight, diet, eating habits, and the like on the blog for a number of reasons. Mostly it’s because I’m not qualified to talk about those things and it drives me nuts when people that aren’t qualified (try to) give advice. I know most of these people are trying to be helpful, but what I don’t think they realize is that they can actually have the opposite effect. I see it rampant in the blogging world, because, as a society, we’re so obsessed with diet, exercise, and “looking and feeling our best” (which really means “looking what we think society sees as the best”). That being said, this post is about how I feel about my own body, and how it affects me not only as a runner, but as a human being.

I actually had this post on the back-burner for awhile because I wasn’t really sure exactly what I wanted to say or how to say it. But when I saw that Lauren Fleshman posted about keeping it real over on the Runner’s World blog, I knew it was time for me to share.

Growing up I could eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. When I was very young (toddler and pre-school age) I would eat anything and everything, no questions asked. I then went through a phase where I was extremely picky; my mom referred to it as “eating like a bird.” Being naturally thin, I never thought about my weight during those dangerous pre-teen years when girls start to realize society puts a high price on “skinny.” I do remember whining about not fitting into size 0 shorts at some point in middle school—to which my mother quickly shot down with a “you are a woman. You will have hips!” I started swimming in middle school as well and, despite being in a bathing suit in front of people (sometimes hundreds), I was never self conscious. I also ate anything I wanted. Double quarter pounder with cheese, super-sized, from McDonald’s once in awhile? You bet. I always ate a balance of “good” and “bad,” and my parents did a good job of keeping overly processed foods out of our reach. My ability to devour food without any consequences carried throughout college. I did have a period after my freshman swim season ended where I put on a few pounds (I’d say maybe 5-10), but it quickly dropped once I was home for the summer and back to swimming regularly and not spending my weekends at keg parties.

Once I graduated college, though, I realized I didn’t have the type of physical activity in my life that allowed me to eat whatever I wanted. I spent periods throughout that first year worried about putting on weight, but not doing much about it. Eventually, I decided to start running just to give myself a safety net; for some reason, I worried that one day I would just wake up and realize I’d packed on post-college pounds. It never happened and I fell in love with running enough to keep doing it, regardless of what it did (or didn’t do) for my waistline.

About a year into running I discovered social media. Twitter! Blogs! Running and fitness groups! Instagram! For the first time in my life, I questioned my body. I’m the “thinnest” I’ve ever been by almost ten pounds, but, at any moment, I can log on to any social media site and read about how someone just crushed a workout or ate a super healthy meal (also known as “eating clean”). I can see pictures of their ripped and lean bodies and tiny meals. Or they just had a killer long run and are stuffing their faces with mounds of pancakes, but still seem to be extremely fit. I’m sure there are plenty of people who scroll right through those posts and think nothing of it, but not me. When I see these kinds of posts, I tend to have two very different reactions. Part of me wants to be able to be disciplined to “eat clean,” workout hard, and be the epitome of physical fitness, but then the other part of me wants to still workout hard and run fast, while eating whatever I want, whenever I want. I want to show people who are overly restrictive about food and intense about their workouts that you only live once. If I want a second serving, I’m going to go for it!

I find myself thinking about food all the time, but this isn’t new. You can guarantee that as I’m finishing a meal, I’m already thinking (and asking) about the next one; it drives my mom crazy. But I find myself thinking about it in different terms these days. I compare myself to the images people project of their “healthy living” lifestyles on the Internet, and I can’t escape thinking that I’m eating too much and not the right stuff. I find myself wondering if I’m weird for not craving things like salads and fruit and “healthy” things all the time. Or if I just don’t have enough willpower. I’m the kind of person that if given the option between a fruit salad or home fries with my brunch entree, I will always choose home fries. If I go with the assumed healthier option, I may feel better about myself in that moment, but I’m usually not satisfied. If I go with what I really want, I enjoy it, but usually feel guilty afterwards. As you can imagine, that type of internal struggle can get tiresome (and annoying).

When I find myself worrying about food, it isn’t because of its health value (or lack thereof), but rather what it may mean for the image of my body. And that’s a pretty messed up way to think about food, isn’t it? If I’m expecting my body to perform to the best of it’s ability, I should treat it right and fuel it the way it needs to be fueled. And, at the same time, if I want a little dessert after dinner I shouldn’t feel like I “don’t deserve it.”

Life is about so much more than the number on a scale or the number on the tag in your jeans, or how much skin sits over your pants when you’re sitting down. No, I don’t have a six pack and I have cellulite under my butt that, no matter how many squats I do, doesn’t seem to go away. And guess what? I’m still strong and athletic and am able to push my body to get it to perform to the best of its ability. I’ve always compared myself to others in every aspect of my life, but at the end of the day I’m living my life and no one else’s. What good does it do to compare myself to someone in a completely different situation? They say comparison is the theft of joy and I truly believe it. Everyone is different—that’s the beauty of being human—so how can you compare what you’re eating and how you’re working out to what someone else is doing? Sure, it’s easier said than done, but I think, as a society, we need to do a better job of encouraging one another to live our own lives and to support one another in that journey. If we’re all open and honest about our struggles and try to keep it real, at the end of the day I think we’ll all feel a little bit better. I know I will.

22 Comments

Filed under Food Blogging, Life, Running

22 Responses to On Keeping It Real

  1. I think you should consider unfollowing those people. I think the “eating clean” phenomenon masks an unhealthy relationship with food. I also think that the majority of people on social media are not “keeping it real”… Most seem to be doing the opposite.

    • Danielle

      Definitely! I found myself wrapped up in it for awhile (never doing it myself, but always wondering if I should), but realized it was unrealistic, and like you said, a mask for an unhealthy relationship with food.

  2. Lauren G.

    Well said. For as much as I love running, I’ve stopped following the vast majority of running-related Twitter accounts, blogs, and Instagrams. Not only do they present a one-sided and tacitly judgemental view of “health” (which it has nothing to do with, and everything to do with how our society is steeped in absurd standards of beauty and gender roles), it seems like those people have nothing else going on their lives besides exercise and eating. Boring, judge-y, and quite frankly, sad. Social media has convinced so many people that they, and their opinions, are super important and just HAVE to be shared with the world. Newsflash – they aren’t. I hope more folks take an honest and holistic look at their bodies, lives, and place in the great big world out there.

    • Danielle

      So true! It seems like Social Media, while has many benefits, also serves as a way to amplify negative things in our society, as is the case I’ve seen with food, fitness, and body image. I’ve unfollowed entire groups of people for similar reasons you mentioned.

  3. I’ve honestly found that unfollowing blogs that eat like that or have a main focus has done me wonders. I was the same way in college now. I eat well, I eat not so great but I eat a lot. I had to stop comparing myself to others because I do eat more and regularly. Anyways I love how open and honest your blog is. Such a great post!

  4. I feel the exact same way. I’m currently struggling with everything related to this. I love food, I have no desire to be on a strict diet, but I feel like I am gaining weight every single day. It’s frustrating. Some days are fine, but other days are awful and I wonder if I should be striving to make myself skinnier and fitter like most of the fast runners I admire on social media. Part of me wants to give up social media for a while, because sometimes it makes me feel bad about myself.

    Great post! It’s always great to be reminded to stop comparing yourself.

  5. Lindsay Hazard

    This is a great post and I totally relate! I just really love food :-) thanks for putting it in perspective for us!

  6. I agree that there are way too many people who have a cult following yet are not trained nutritionists or dietitians and therefore shouldn’t be giving advice. I will say that my diet probably seems restrictive to most, but it’s the result of food allergies/intolerances not some misguided attempt to maintain a certain weight (I also rarely talk about it on my blog). I LOVE food (and beer) but sadly many of the things I love just don’t love me (and I avoid them because I don’t want to spend my life huddled up on the floor of the bathroom or drugged out on allergy meds). That being said, I really appreciate the reminder to stop comparing ourselves to others! I spent a year basically hating running because I wasn’t “keeping up with” people I thought I should be. Silly and stupid. Thanks for keeping it real!! :)

  7. Great post, Danielle. Glad you can see through the BS on social media. It usually only shows the “good” side of people which is terrible in general, food or otherwise. Wishing you the best in training this season!

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  9. This is a great post. I have always had a fast metabolism and never had to worry about what I ate and still don’t. I chose to eat healthier because I love how I feel better and my mind clearer. I think my passion for nutrition and natural health is my main draw to eating healthy. I went through a phase of being a food snob and very restrictive with my eating. Now I have learned to let things go and allow myself to eat what I crave every now and again. Thanks for this post and perspective.

  10. I grew up skinny, have long arms and am still very active for a 60 year old. I don’t limit my food intake, but people automatically think I do and that drives me crazy. I just had spaghetti with meat sauce for brunch ’cause that is what sounded good to me! (with bread). I was actually called names by an artificial sweetener co. on twitter for not being “educated” about their product. I eat sugar. I eat gluten. I eat meat. I eat chocolate. I drink alcohol. Really ladies-if you are constantly writing about and taking pix of food on your blog it’s an unhealthy relationship. Eat in moderation until you are full. Then end.

  11. Great post! It is so hard not to compare and I certainly can relate to one day being happy that I can put down a massive breakfast post workout to wondering if maybe I should not let myself indulge in food i wouldn’t normally eat just because I had a long run. I think social media definitely makes it harder to feel confident in out own choices when everyone is doing something different and saying its right ( for example I refuse to jump on the gluten free bandwagon yet sometimes start to wonder if therein something to it despite my own research saying its a fad in situations other than a legit aversion).

    Thanks for keeping it real!

  12. i. love. this. post.
    we are all on our own journey as people, as women, as runners … and we should support one another in that!! i struggle with social media sometimes too. it is a love/hate relationship for me. i love the community of genuine people i am connected with through it – some who have become really wonderful friends in my life! – but the blogging/social media world has unfortunately also brought with it some pretty hurtful experiences. we all have a choice though thankfully and we do not have to follow or associate ourselves with people who make us feel bad – we can rise above that! i believe it is important to surround ourselves with those who build us up, who are real and open with us, who inspire and encourage us, who represent themselves and their lives authentically – on social media and in real life. thank you so much for this post!

  13. Love, love, love this post! It’s so hard not to compare. I’ve always been relatively thin, but never the healthiest eater and reading all the craving healthy foods posts would sometimes make me wonder if I was doing it wrong. I know it’s bad to compare, but also so hard not to. I’ve found it best to not follow these kinds of posters or I just end up getting frustrated. I also don’t think a lot of those people are telling the whole story – just what they want to project!

  14. This is such a great post! I find I can relate so much of what you have to say because I have been there…restricting because of being worried about athletic performance, etc. It takes some time and I am still working on it some days, but finding the right balance for yourself and not anyone else is one of the most important lessons I have taken away from my experiences! Feel free to read more about my journey here :)

    http://www.livehealtheasy.com/p/more-on-me_16.html

  15. I completely agree! I’m on the “petite” side I guess you could say, but I’m also aware that my body isn’t what people think of what they think “fit,” thanks to social media- I will probably never have muscular or even toned arms for that matter, and I will probably always wear running shorts because I don’t like the way I look in spandex. So those insecurities coupled with all the “clean eating” hashtags sometimes get to me and make me feel guilty for being a fitness enthusiast that doesn’t “eat clean” 100% of the time. I eat healthy sometimes and I eat unhealthy other times. Whatever I have a craving for, I eat. Sometimes it’s followed by guilt and other times it’s not, but it’s guaranteed to be followed by guilt when I get on Instagram and see someone’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner that appears to be half the size of mine. Apparently it’s not enough guilt to change my habits though, which I’m glad- I would probably be grouchy if I “ate clean” all the time! :) Thanks for sharing your thoughts and “keeping it real.”

  16. I tend to unfollow or mute the people that make me second guess what I am doing. There are some people I know in real life that I follow and they post about their workouts but it doesn’t bother me because I personally know their struggles a bit better. I also question the need to post a picture of every workout and meal, yeah people blog their workouts (myself included) but that seems more about accountability. I question those who are constantly doing that.

  17. Sun

    Awesome post, Danielle! I completely relate with constantly feeling torn between wanting to eat super healthy but still wanting to enjoy an indulgence now and then. I think the key is everything in moderation.

    Side note: It absolutely drives me nuts when certain healthy living blogs post recipes and include unrealistic serving sizes. Who ever ate a 1/2 cup of cooked pasta for dinner with nothing else and felt satisfied?? :)

  18. All of this. Perfectly stated.

  19. Wonderful post, like seriously. I actually went through and unfollowed a lot of people on various media forms who were giving advice on things they shouldn’t be. I also unfollowed some people who just make me feel negative things, I simply don’t have time for that.

  20. Exactly what Dori said, perfectly written. I felt like I was reading what I think on a daily basis. PS – you do look pretty fab, imho. ;)

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