On any given day you can find an article written about body image and how hard women are on themselves about how they look. We hear stories of how pictures on the covers of magazines are photo-shopped and airbrushed. But rarely do we see people openly admitting that their photos were corrected to make them look thinner, tanner, healthier, muscular, etc. And when they do, everyone sings their praises for being brave and having the courage to speak out about how they/their bodies really look on a daily basis.
Lauren Fleshman is a professional runner sponsored by Oiselle, business partner with Oiselle, wife, mom, creator of Picky Bars, and all around cool chick. She posts about a variety of things related to Oiselle, running, motherhood, and life. It is her post “Keeping It Real” that she wrote back in November of 2013 that has created quite a bit of buzz with people, runners and non-runners alike. You can click on the title for the entire post (my summary will not do the article justice, plus you need to see her pictures to realize the full impact of her words). Lauren wrote about a fashion show she was a part of for Oiselle in New York City. This fashion show also took place 3 months after having her son. She posted pictures of what she looked like on the runway (amazing). Then she posted pictures of herself at running practice that same week that she returned from NYC. In these pictures, you see the “real” Lauren, yet they are still awesome because she is showing all of us what it really looks like to be working out 3 months post baby. After you read her “Keeping It Real” article I want you to read this article “Let’s Keep It Real About Our Bodies” that she wrote this week in response to all of the buzz that she created with the first article (it went viral). In this article she explains the process she went through to post those pictures of herself. She also put out a challenge to us, all of us. Using the hashtag #keepingitreal post pictures of you being imperfect. Back fat, cellulite, belly protruding, bad posture, bad hair, red and sweaty face, everything you hate about yourself when you are posting your pictures. There is also a link there to submit these “perfect imperfections” to Runners World. Check out both of her articles, you will not be disappointed.
This article struck a chord with me in many ways. First, I am totally guilty of only posting flattering (or what I perceive to be flattering) pictures of me on Instagram and Facebook. I will have my picture taken way too many times (just ask my family) until I feel the picture is post worthy. I don’t want my wrinkles to show, my belly is sticking out, my ass looks huge, my hair looks greasy, let me turn to the side. You know, you have done it as well. I also rarely post pictures of my face when I am finished running. If I post a picture it is usually from the neck down or my legs (cellulite and varicose veins excluded). Which is actually pretty funny when you think about it, because if I see you out in public, either in running clothes or not, you will see exactly what I look like. And if I see you out on the weekend, say after a long run and I am in my sweats, it’s not a pretty sight :) I am not saying these things so people will tell me, oh you are crazy, you look fine, you don’t have wrinkles, etc. in hopes of reassuring me. I say these things because they are the truth to me. We all have imperfections, it is what makes us individuals.
The second reason this article hit home with me is because I have always struggled with self-confidence and body image. It was not until I started running that I felt more comfortable with my body and felt better about how I looked. Some days are really good and I can say very positive things about myself, other days not so much. When I fall into a non-running rut is when the negative thoughts start creeping in and I become very hard on myself. It is not because I run to feel skinny or lose weight. I run to feel healthy and strong and know that I am doing something that is good for my body and mind. My concern with all of these thoughts though is, what am I teaching my children? I currently have two boys and would like to have a third baby. If I am blessed to get pregnant again and possibly have a girl, do I really want to pass on any of my body image issues to her (or my boys)? On any given day I could go out and run 10 miles without batting an eye. I could do a hill workout or a speed workout and relish in the fact that my body is strong enough to handle it. So am I going to continue doing these workouts and then come back and say things in front of my children like “I look fat in that picture, my jeans are too tight, you can see my back fat”. In this case it is doing one thing and then saying another. I am sending my children mixed messages, I am physically healthy in that I work out and stay in shape but then I am mentally and emotionally unhealthy in that I put myself down with negative comments. This has to change.
So the “Keeping it Real” challenge to myself is to not only post those imperfect pictures but also to not be so hard on myself. I need to focus on the good that I am doing for my body, and not what I think is NOT good about it, especially if I am not able to run. I know this is easier said than done. It only takes seeing one person’s post on Facebook or Instagram to make you question yourself. I have seen the Theodore Roosevelt quote, “Comparison is the Thief of Joy” and it is so true. This quote is going to be my focus as I take on the keeping it real challenge.
What are you going to do to keep it real?