Change your perspective on running: Self-love should be your only motivation
March 03, 2016 at 10:30 am
I had body image issues coming out of my ears before I found running.
Seriously. I’ve been dealing with my poor body image and self-esteem since third grade and it still affects me today. I’ve been at battle with my body image, primarily due to being repeatedly told I was overweight as a child. Let me paint the picture for you:
- Somewhere around age 10, I was left in a room alone with a doctor who showed me a BMI chart. He described the chart as a measurement of average weight to height, then told me that I was “abnormal” and my weight was off the charts. I was otherwise completely healthy.
- My Girl Scout troop made fun of me because of my weight — among other things — causing a burning disdain for Girl Scouts that lasted for years to come.
- I couldn’t wear jeans during middle school. The only pants I wore were sweats because even the largest children’s sizes no longer fit.
These are just a few instances that helped to destroy the modicum of self-esteem I did have. I was fat. I was fatter than other kids wherever I went, and was always aware of it. I was constantly being told to exercise more and forced to play sports I couldn’t stand, all while being teased for my weight.
I don’t think a single day went by where I didn’t hate myself for being fat.
I reached a turning point. I finally had a place where I felt safe, a place to exercise, learn discipline, make new friends, push myself and always be encouraged to do my best. When I found cross-country running during high school I was ecstatic. I lost a ton of weight. Standing at 5’2”, my weight was around 145 pounds at the start of high school. After 3 seasons of cross-country, and one season running track, I weighed 117 pounds. The transformation was unbelievable. People complimented my toned legs, friends envied my weight loss and I improved with each season I ran. I was happy. But my happiness was entirely tied to the fact that I was thin.
Then came college. I tried to maintain the healthy habits I learned from cross-country running in high school. Sometimes I ran, sometimes I didn’t — but it never really mattered because I was still relatively thin.
Junior year hit and things started getting harder…
I started to eat my stress and feelings. Long story short, I gained 40 pounds over two years. Once again, I was officially overweight.
This year, I decided to re-commit to running and make drastic changes to my diet, motivated by my desire to feel as healthy and happy as I once was. But, I’m very careful about the reasons I use to motivate myself to exercise. I don’t allow myself to attach happiness to thinness. I did that once and ended up right where I was before cross-country running — unhappy and unhealthy.
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I run because I want to live a long, healthy life without contracting diabetes or heart disease. I run because it improves my mood and it gives me a boost of energy. I run because it’s the easiest exercise for me to do. I run because it makes me feel powerful. But no matter what…
I will not go running because I think I’m fat.
Exercising because you have negative feelings about your body only reinforces poor body image. It causes self-esteem to be tied to whether or not you exercise and perpetuates negative cycles of thought. “If I do run I’m good, if I don’t run I’m bad.” I’m not here for that. I remind myself this daily: Being thin will not fix your problems.
When your motivation is self-love, happiness and health will follow. I still struggle with self-love, so each time I plan to run, I think through my motives to make sure I’m running for the right reasons. When I go, I’m glad, and when I don’t, that’s fine too. Running should be a time for self-care and introspection, not a tedious chore.
I make sure my reasons for running are positive to ensure that I’m communing with myself, challenging myself and doing something I love.