It is going to be one of those weeks where I deal with what I think is a pretty serious issue. This blog may get a little deep and maybe a little dark. I do however think that it is something that I need to get off my chest and it is my bloody blog so I will write about what I want :-)
So before you see the title this week and think "Oh poor you! People are telling you that you are too skinny" I want to get something out of the way. I am happy to admit that I have some issues with my body image. I say it time and time again that I do not think you can go through a major physical change without some psychological side-effects. It is something which I am getting better at dealing with but I would be lying if I said that I do not have issues with my body image. I look in the mirror and find it hard to see the person I have become instead of the person that I used to be. I can say that after 5 years this is becoming easier to manage, but it is still something that I have to deal with on a daily basis.
So having said that I am getting sick of people telling me that I am too skinny. I get it all the time now. Comments like "eat a pie" or "you're wasting away" do not make me feel good about myself. They do not make me think that I am too skinny (because I know that I am not). All they do is make me self-conscious. They make me think that I am not the only person looking at my body and not liking what they see. I am an endurance athlete. Guess what, here is a shocking piece of info, if you train more than 20 hours a week there is a good chance that you will be lean. I have a coach who allocates my daily sessions and I do not do any extras. I eat a healthy and balanced diet so I am confident that I do not have an eating disorder. The simple fact is that for the sport I choose to compete in, some people are skinny. If you lined me up next to other triathletes you would see that I am not the exception. Nor am I the leanest athlete in the field. I can appreciate that I am not every other triathlete though. I know that I used to weigh over 120kgs. I know that I look very different now.
What baffles me the most though is that when I was overweight no one ever said anything to me about it. Literally no one. These days I go for a meal with my family and I have to say "I don't want anyone mentioning my weight." I think if my wife Dez ever says anything to me about it I would take it seriously. This is because she sees what I eat and knows how much I train everyday. If she thinks something is wrong then I would actually look at my diet. She literally has been with me through the entire journey. I assure you I wasn't at my biggest when we met. It is something that I am aware of too. About a month ago my weight dropped to a level which I believed was too low. To remedy this I started to increase the number of calories I consumed daily. I didn't start adding a pizza to my evening meal. I just started to eat more of the same food I was already eating.
What really annoys me though is why it is taboo to tell someone who is overweight that they are too big but it is almost considered a compliment to tell people they are too skinny? Newsflash! There are serious health hazards that people who are too skinny face. If you think telling someone they are too skinny is a compliment you are wrong. I am aware that I have advocated before about as a society we should not be afraid to talk to people about their weight. Weight can be an indicator of other issues a person is going through and there is nothing wrong with asking if a person is OK. But once you are told that there is nothing that needs to be worried about leave it alone. It is not the sort of thing that needs to be mentioned over and over again. Apart from the obvious body image issues the knowledge that certain people are likely to mention your weight when you see them can create anxiety and make people feel uncomfortable.
So why does it bother me so much? The answer is that when someone tells me I am too skinny I do not think it is a comment about my weight. Instead, it makes me think that there is something wrong with my body. This is the last thing that a person who has body image issues wants to hear. Because when you have issues with your body, the problems can sometimes be the only things that you see. It is a slippery slope and once you start sliding it can be hard to stop. It is ridiculous I know. I am literally sitting here writing this and I know how ridiculous it is. But it is real. If I have a rest day or go out for a big night with friends it has an actual impact on my mood and my self-confidence. Before I followed a structured training plan and would sort of haphazardly train Dez used to almost kick me out the door to go for a run or something because of the impact it would have on my mood. Who knows. Maybe I am the odd person here but I wonder how many other people out there who have issues with their body image can understand what I am talking about. I just don't like it when people make comments about my body. Especially when it is something that is repeated time and time again.
Honestly I know people are not saying these things to be harsh or to upset me. In fact I am probably as much to blame because I do not tell people to stop doing it (this is pretty out of character for me because I like to speak my mind) or even that it makes me feel this way. Sometimes I also think to myself that the comments people make are a reflection on themselves more than me. It is easy to say things to a stranger via the internet who you don't know. Maybe this is because you are unhappy with your own body? Maybe, like me you suffer from your own issues in relation to body image. I can't be sure.
At the end of the day, this body is mine. I am the one who lives in it. I am the one who trains it to be able to accomplish certain things. I have experimented with all kinds of different types of training and diet. I have had times where my weight has started to go back up and when it has dropped very suddenly. I know how my body works and I know that if I race at a certain weight I go faster and recover faster. This weight may not be what other people consider to be aesthetically pleasing or a weight which another person would want to be and that is absolutely fine. But it is my decision to make and I know that I approach my weight in a way that not only allows me to race and train in a healthy way but also minimises the issues that I have with my own body. So let it be. I get it. I am a lot smaller than I used to be and if you haven't seen me for a long time it can be shocking. But please, stop going on about my weight. It isn't an issue. I want my weight loss story to be an example of what hard work and persistence can do. Not a story of a person who pushed them-self to an extreme or achieved weight-loss in an unhealthy or dangerous manner.
Body image is an incredibly serious issue for both men and women and I have learnt through my own experience that it is not something that is easy to get rid of. It is not a matter of wanting to lose weight and thinking like in the fairytales that you will live happily ever after. It is a a bad habit that is hard to shake. But together we can all try and play our part. How you may ask? Simple, stop bringing up other people's weight. If you are seriously concerned about a person then have a serious conversation with them. Don't say it in front of other people and absolutely do not joke about it. Understand that it is hard, irrational and completely ridiculous. But also understand that it is very very real.
That will do this week. I ran a new half-marathon PB today of 1:21:33 which I am over the moon about. If I was too skinny or suffering from an eating disorder I don't think that would be possible...
Stay safe, don't call me skinny and remember to TRI!