I’ve never been one to really read a ton of healthy living blogs or running blogs before, but I’ve started reading them since I’ve started wanting to run more. Reading other people’s blogs has really reinforced something I’ve noticed before, which I think is really disappointing, especially when you read other active people feeding into these beliefs…
I’m a small person. I’m probably less than 100lbs right now (I weigh less when I lift less) and I’m 5′ tall. I have a small frame, but I don’t think I’m super thin. I think if you looked at a picture of me, I’d look like a fairly normal sized person.
There I am over the summer. Pretty much a whole body shot. Now, when I’m at work, I have people ask me all the time why I work out “because you’re already small.” I hate this almost as much as when my patients ask me how old I am (how inappropriate to ask your nurse how old she is!!!!). It disgusts me that America is to the point where people ask why a person who is small works out! Because it’s healthy! Because to stay this size for the rest of my life, I do need to work out. And I don’t even think about my size, especially not in terms of gaining weight, honestly. I work out because I feel better. I work out because I like feeling capable and feeling strong. I work out because it’s fun! I work out so that when I’m 70, I can still get around. I don’t want osteoporosis (petite white women are at the highest risk of osteoporosis)! How do you prevent that? Calcium. Weight bearing exercises. I don’t want to have clogged arteries. I don’t want to get tired walking up hills. Also, I’m not ungodly skinny. I don’t look unhealthy (or I don’t think I do). So when I say I lift weights and run, why do people assume that I shouldn’t be working out? I have muscle. I don’t look anorexic, therefore I really don’t think anybody should be concerned about me working out “when I’m already small.”
When I was in Iraq, I was the only female medic that worked at night. We had to load and unload patients off of helicopters on a regular basis. I also worked out heavily while I was there. I happened to go on leave and then as soon as I came back, I went off to Baghdad for a month. When I was in Baghdad, I never loaded or unloaded patients from the helicopters and I also never worked out because I wasn’t comfortable in my surroundings there, and the only girl I knew in Baghdad didn’t work out. When I went back to Tikrit, we had to load a patient into the helicopter again. I remember almost not getting my side up on the stretcher to get that guy back into the bird because I hadn’t been working out. It was amazing how much strength I lost. I felt incapable because I didn’t know if I’d be strong enough to do my job! I still lift people and pull them up in bed and even though some of these 300lb people can be difficult, I can still help pull people up in bed.
After reading all of these blogs, I keep noticing such a focus on weight. Weights are included in titles. Failure comes from gaining a pound. Success comes from losing a pound. I guess I don’t get it. Maybe I don’t get it because I’ve always been small (although, there are other features I don’t love about myself, but they’re things I can’t change by working out so I’ve decided just to learn to not mind those features). I feel like success should be measured by feeling good. When you feel like you’ve improved on your goals, you succeed. When you go to the gym, who cares if you don’t do your cardio? You still made it to the gym! Success! As long as your weight isn’t putting you at risk for diabetes or heart disease or the plethora of other health problems, why be so concerned? Besides, muscle weighs more than fat. Obsessing over one pound if pointless. What if you lost 3lbs of fat and gained 5lbs of muscle? Why feel like a failure? If you eat an unhealthy meal, is that really a failure? I don’t like eating “bad” food because I feel bad. It makes me feel sick. But then again, I am able to enjoy eating “bad” food in moderation because overall, I’m healthy. If it kills me to enjoy a piece of cake or a donut, or to enjoy sweet cream creamer in my coffee, then I’m going to just accept that and move on. When you put a label on food, that it’s “bad” or that it’s a “cheat meal,” then it punishes you for enjoying it. And while it’s better to consume real food regularly, obsessing over those “bad” foods probably isn’t worth it. Move on. I think people need to just stop worrying so much about their body and how it looks and focus more on how they feel and what it feels like to be healthy.
I think Americans in general (and people in other countries, however, I do notice this more in the North American population) have just lost sight of the importance of their health. I guess it’s easy to do in a generation of GMOs and fast food and prepackaged “foods,” but it’s really just going to kill the nation in healthcare costs and people are going to be miserable in their unhealthy bodies (be it fat unhealthy bodies or skinny unhealthy bodies) while paying a ton of money in taxes to pay for all the rest of the unhealthy people. And that’s another reason I work out. So people won’t be paying for my broken hips because of my osteoporosis when I’m 70.
I think this post is all over the place. Whatever. I really feel passionate about health, especially with where the US is headed. And I think there is so much that goes into health so I can’t just focus on one thing (and I can’t focus on one thing anyway- look who’s writing this!!!).