I have talked about this a few times now, on my Find Your Strong post, and my Weight Fluctuations post. I also had a guest post from Becca about her struggles with overcoming her eating disorder.
I said it before, and I am gonna say it again; I think things are changing. I think the dawn of the strong runner is just about to begin.
It could not be more overdue.
A few years ago, Dani Stack, a front runner in collegiate running, wrote a very brave post about struggling with an eating disorder, and it compelled me to write about it again. Dani’s detailed description of the past five years of her life showed how much torture she had been through, and it broke my heart.
Although I have never been through anorexia or bulimia myself, I have close family members and friends who have been through it. Some made it out the other side, but still continue to struggle to this day……others will be battling their minds for life.
I am so thankful that I have never allowed myself to go down that path, but I would be lying if I said the temptation was not there. When I see the pounds creep on during my time off (which is a GOOD thing!), and particularly now that I am working from home, the temptation to eat all the time could easily drive me crazy.
I do get frustrated, I do snap at my loved ones sometimes when I feel my belly hanging over my tights, but I know just how important fuel is to running well, and for that reason, I push those thoughts out of my mind, and refocus.
It just makes me wonder how many of the people I race against are going through this, but are not quite brave enough to say it. I hope that through the awareness and courage of some people, others will learn to talk about it, and share their stories too.
Admitting that you have a problem is one of the most difficult parts, but wanting to change is probably the most difficult part; you have to be prepared to let go of wanting to be skinny in order to be healthy. That does not mean doubling your body weight, but accepting that eating a little too much is better for you than eating too little.
That is the part that I think this changing image of female runners will help with. By seeing other strong, powerful runners out there succeeding, the association of being lighter= being faster will slowly begin to slip away.
I watched the Great Edinburgh Cross Country race on Saturday (where my bridesmaid Frances finished 8th, 3rd USA!), and I loved seeing the strong runners at the front, especially at the end.
All but one of that front pack looked healthy, strong, and powerful, and it was awesome to see Emelia Gorecka come away with the win. She would never have battled those tough conditions without the power in her legs.
I am also learning myself that having powerful muscles is nothing to be ashamed of; as I continue to work on my form to become a better runner, I am building muscles in my glutes and arms that I did not have before, but I know it is the reason I was able to run so well this season. I am very excited for my future running!
If you have been reading my blog for any amount of time, you will know that I have a wicked sweet tooth, and one that demands more than one square of chocolate to be satiated. I indulge in my sugar, especially during off season.
You know what though?
I earn that. I work really damn hard to be able to enjoy foods like that without feeling guilty.
Does guilt cross my mind after I eat it? Of course it does, but I think about how I do not want to travel down that path of obsessing over every morsel that passes my lips. Once you do that, you are traveling down a dark path, one that easily spirals out of control, just like Dani mentioned.
So, what does this all come down to? I would rather weigh 120 lbs. on my 5ft. 5in. frame as an elite, have a slightly soft belly, with legs double the size of some people I race against, but know that I have a healthy mindset, and be happy with my life, be happy with who I am as a person.
Stocky legs and all, I am Tina Muir, and I am going to continue to power my way through my running career. In the same way that your energy runs out and you bonk when you do not eat enough before a run, well, I know that in ten years, I will still be going, I will still be strong and healthy, I will still have the energy to power my way around wherever my future of running takes me.
I encourage you to be brave about your inner worries and share about your struggles, be it through your own blog, by talking to a family member, or even by emailing me (email@example.com).
Awareness is the only way we are going to keep our culture moving in the right direction, and I intend on doing everything I can to help every person I can. You never know who will end up reading it.
Dani’s post has thousands of shares now, and I am sure she will inspire many to overcome their struggles, to see that they are not alone. Alexa also wrote a post on her story, which was another inspiring read.
Be brave, and love who you are. YOU are special, and have so much to offer this world, you just need to let the world see it 🙂
PS. My good friend, Sarah Crouch (another elite runner) came on the Runners Connect podcast recently to talk about this and other female related issues. The body image section will be very helpful for anyone who has any kind of doubt about how they “should” look to be a “real” runner. Spoiler alert- THERE ISNT ONE 🙂 If you are a female, this is a must listen!
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I loved reading your blog. Suffering from a eating disorder at a young age when I was 16 began my use of running to control my weight when parents were divorcing, I longed for control and changing my weight gave me this. Recovered 10 years later I am now running at a high level properly fueled and its a whole different experience. With getting stronger and faster I am now heavier, muscly legs too which I struggle with daily but keep these old negative thoughts at bay with the knowledge that I am a faster better runner with fuel. My danger times are also when I’m not working or when I have to take time recovery time off a marathon. The times are changing and think talking about and challenging struggles that people face with runners body image is the best way forward. I am running VLM in championship area, second marathon! Great to see cross country at Edinburgh too, awesome to see womens race! Well done on excellent blog. Shona
You know I couldn’t agree with you more!! There’s just so much focus on weight and food in what we do (especially at the level you compete!!!) and it’s sad to see someone suffer with a disorder. I believe that if elites like you continue to spread the message of being strong and healthy and you – women will start to get it and will come around! Another great post with an awesome message. Although I have to say, one thing shocked me – you’re 5′ 5″??? I thought you were shorter then that!! 🙂
YES YES YES!!!! ((((sharing this as well)))
Obviously, I love this. I talked about this as well, last fall–my own mental road blocks but also how running has helped me to learn what my body can handle, and that it is likely more than I expect it can, but also to respect it, to give it what it needs. But not obsessing is so, so critical, especially when you know that said component could be helping/hindering you realizing your goals. But I am like you–there are women out there who are far leaner than I (which seems impossible), or have better abs, or whatever, but I have earned that little bit of extra, and that little bit of extra is my fuel to get me where I want to go.
Hate to say it, but i think all athletes almost have a “fear” or some kind of disorted awareness of food with training. And ALL women included! Heck, the kiwi sometimes has to remind himself that it’s not about race weight! It’s about power and strength. Thank you for sharing this and reminding us ALL to fuel properly
Great post, Tina! You are such a compassionate person. I hope your encouragement and healthy (so healthy!!) approach to elite running helps others realize restriction doesn’t work. You do such a wonderful job of demonstrating that a healthy approach is the way to get there–and that you can be happy, too, even with an extra pound or two (though where yours is I don’t know!). Keep up the encouragement.
My one bone to pick with Dani’s story is this: I’m not so sure she should be part of a sponsored team and competing right now. She sounds like she has a long way to go and I’m not so sure the pressure of trying to represent a brand is what she needs until she is truly healthy. My two cents!
You don’t know how happy this post makes me, not only because you believe it and are living life with this approach in mind, but because it seems way more runners are as well! I love to see the strength people have. Fun fact, when we watch anything with celebrities, runners, etc, I am more inclined to comment on how healthy someone looks and the fact that they aren’t skin and bones. I never suffered from an eating disorder, but I know it’s tough to overcome. I think seeing these athletes who have some meat on their bones and are still doing amazing is what is needed in our world and can help those who are struggling.
I couldn’t agree more with this! So many people associate size with speed. I hate that! Women can be strong! It isn’t weird or odd or different. It is beautiful!!
Good for you! Thanks for posting this. (I struggle with this some myself.)
I just finished reading Kathryn Bertine’s book about her time in figure skating All the Sundays Yet to Come where she very candidly details her struggles with anorexia and her challenge coming back. I’m on her second book As Good as Gold, and about to read The Road Less Taken. She’s an impressive athlete, and the mindset she works toward, of being STRONG and proud of it, is inspiring even more given her struggles.
I think the more people who can be honest about the challenges we struggle with daily (or at every meal) in seeking short and long term health in mind and body when trying to compete at our best as athletes, whether pro/elite or not, the more that others will be helped along the way too.
I love this. I am so glad you are out there spreading the word. I know that a lot of young women admire you and read your blog, so you really can make a difference. There are a few blogger/runners that I hope read this too.
It is so easy to get pulled into the mindset of lighter=faster. As a coach it is something I have to be on the lookout for. I think one of the problems is, is that to a certain extent it is true. Light and strong is the perfect combination, at there is a fine line there that is easy to cross
You are sincerely a brave one, Tina. 🙂
Brilliant post, Tina. I think it’s SO important for women to aspire to be healthy and strong than “skinny”. When I saw Jessica Ennis in the 2012 Olympics I was like “omg her body is amazing!” – it was strong, muscular and she just looked powerful. I’m not saying skinny is wrong, but for me being strong is more important. I’m working at the gym at the moment at all over fitness rather than just cardio and already I feel the top of my game.
This message is so, SO important, Tina! I find body image goes hand-in-hand with every client I work with around food, and why shouldn’t it? Everything in our culture tells us that how we look = our worth. Keep the counter cultural messages coming!
Beautiful words! There is so much focus on weight for women in general too. Our worth is much more than what is on the scale!
I love it! I hope your positive attitude spills onto so many that are reading this. So many women struggle with this on a daily basis. Those strong legs of yours have taken you very far. You should be very proud of them.
Oh my, what a great post. Awareness and support is where it is at. Thank you for putting yourself out there as a resource for someone who needs to talk. We need to get this conversation going as a nation and love ourselves for who we are.
In high school I was one of those super skinny runners/people then in college I packed on some weight (not in a healthy way but….) even though I was competing in both cross country and track. I heard one coach make a very rude comment about the size of my legs and it bothered me a lot!!!
Now I actually weigh more than I did in college, have bigger legs and am running stronger than ever!!!! 20+ years ago the emphasis wasn’t on strong like it is now. I never had a single coach that encouraged me to lift weights. It is so much better to be strong!!!
Great post! Fueling for training is hard and what’s even more confusing is adjusting back to normal eating after training. Thanks for the great reminders in this post and bringing awareness to others.
Hi Tina! Once again, another thoughtful and inspiring post. It’s amazing how a “big runner” is actually a still a small and fit looking person to the rest of us. Being in the fitness world, I think we all struggle with some degree of food angst, knowing that we should look our best. I know that I try to fuel for performance (I teach group fitness) and that doesn’t always equate to salads. Plus, I live in San Francisco, so there’s about 10 pounds of good restaurant eating you have to factor in that is non-negotiable. hehehe!! 🙂
I can see how the pressure as an elite runner could be so magnified and intense, and I love how you write about the struggles to accept your body as it is in its healthy state and form, even surrounded by so much seemingly telling you to get thinner to be faster. I think for all women, when we feel the pressure it’s hard to keep the perspective of lifetime health over short term thinness or speed. Thanks again for writing about these tough issues!
Love this post Tina! A topic that I know many people struggle with and it is great to bring it to peoples attention. I could not agree more about training really hard and deserving those indulgences. Life is about everything in modification. You should not feel bad about your indulgences if you are staying active – this is something I need to remind myself from time to time.
No words for this post except…THANK YOU for sharing, for being you, for being real, and inspiring us all! XOXO
la la love this Tina!
P.S. I think your ‘stocky legs’ are amazing and if I was sporting them I’d never wear pants!
Beautiful post and wonderfully said.
Tina, so many of us struggle with our inner demons– it is such a relief to know that even elites think about and battle the same dark thoughts. It’s not about will power, it’s about making life changes that better serve whole joyful living– easier said than done, right? I can’t imagine the pressure pros like you have to be a certain way– you have to be strong in the body, but more so in the mind! You’re so real. I love that about you we can all relate.
Reading posts like this makes me all sorts of happy. Having overcome an eating disorder of my own, I can’t even tell you how much it breaks my heart to see the things so many girls put themselves through in an effort to be as thin as they possibly can. Too much exercise, not enough food, and absolutely no LIFE. No happiness, no freedom, no enjoyment… nothing but food and exercise. That’s no way to live. I do believe that times are chafing for the better, though. More and more people are coming out about the dangers of undereating and overexercising, and I’m hoping that the trend continues because life’s too short to constantly be at war with your body, and constantly be trying to change it. If we spent half as much time working on accepting ourselves as we do trying to mold ourselves into some unattainable vision of perfection, the world would be a better place.
After I busted up my foot last year, I changed my eating habits and actually started eating more (kind of weird and backwards that I was doing that injured and not when I was running), but now that I’m running again I have kept those same habits and I think it’s helping me. I did struggle with an eating disorder on and off throughout my life and it has taken a long time for me to really embrace food as my fuel. I definitely have more energy now! (Oh and I have a wicked sweet tooth too…totally understand that part of it. And I earn every piece of pie that I eat!)
Thank you for this…sharing all around because I think more people should read it!
Thank you for writing this Tina! Beautiful words. This is such an important issue for all women, especially athletes.
This post was perfect! Being recovered by my eating disorder, and having run during it, stopping to recover, and then starting to run again, I can truly feel the difference in my body. I’m able to appreciate the fuel my body needs, my legs (that totally rub together – so what!), and my core. Thanks for such a compassionate post!
Beautifully written & well thought out (as always) Tina!
I love what you said about wanting to change being the hardest part- that’s absolutely correct & applicable to any problem we go through. Every issue I’ve had in my life, eating disorder included, wasn’t solved by simply admitting I had a problem, because even that didn’t mean I was ready to move past it. You have to want to change, because no one can do it for you.
I’m on your side, & I hope the strong over skinny mindset continues to build 🙂
It’s posts like these that just put a huge smile on my face. Tina you really are such an inspiration to not only runners, but women in general. If you ever happen to do it a huge presentation, I’m totally there! I’d love to just listen and hear what you have to say in different areas of life.
I loved this sentence: eating a little too much is much better for you than eating too little. So much truth in something so simple.
YES YES YES! I am so far behind in reading blogs posts, but I am SO glad you pointed me to this! I think you are so right, the elite runner is becoming much more strong and healthy than ever before! I literally read this post and was basically fist bumping you all the way through! I could not agree more and obviously LOVE that you shared it with the world. XoXo
Sorry this is like a year late BUT… some thoughts 🙂
I work really damn hard to be able to enjoy foods like that without feeling guilty. having the extra pound or to is worth it to be happy.
Huh.. This one really made me think.. I tend to gain a kilo after every marathon and it makes me so upset. I get back to my original weight by the next one but that 1-2 kilos frustrates my mind so much that I tend to just avoid the scales altogether nowadays. It’s nice to see even the elite runners indulge a bit.
I am really thankful to have come across these posts. While I’ve never
quite had an eating disorder, I have greatly restricted my diet many
times despite having 10 marathons and an ultra under my belt. I still
find it hard to have a heavy meal without doing a big workout
immediately afterwards and struggle not to count my every calorie. But
seeing an amazing elite runner like you talk about this really helps me.
Whenever I’m feeling anxious about treating myself to a high calorie
meal, I read your blog posts and remind myself that I will lose it in
the mountains/marathons in the upcoming weeks/months. Thank you for
writing these Tina. I really appreciate it.