#JourneyWithSteph: Skinny Shaming

Steph addresses some comments made toward her first blog post and encourages celebrating every body.

Stephanie Bruce keeps it real with a close-up look at how different angles in photos, and in life, can change the way you perceive someone’s body and lifestyle.

Skinny shaming is the name, not cool is the game. A few weeks ago I was announced as one of Women’s Running newest bloggers. I was excited to partner with them and be able to share my journey as a professional runner, new mom, coach, and business owner. It was to be a “transparent” series where I share parts of my journey that some women are afraid to talk about. Open, honest and realistic. My first blog was released along with a picture of me in my Oiselle uniform. Hours later a few comments were left on a FB page that read as followed: “This picture is sick and you are destroying your body. She is not a role model for women and our young girls.” Ouch!

Social media is a tricky platform. In some ways it allows us to connect with strangers, share our stories, and stay abreast with the latest news. In other ways it’s a shield for us to hide behind and criticize strangers and tear people down without having to be present in human form. Imagine some of the things you may have posted yourself or read from others—would you have the courage to say that to a person’s face? My guess is not a chance. Well the comments I received did in fact hurt. We’re all human beings with feelings behind those computer screens. Looking at a picture and deciding to judge a person’s life based on that photo I feel is wrong. I believe we are all entitled to opinions, but being openly critical of someone without knowing them I feel is mean.

In an attempt to defend myself in a situation that doesn’t really deserve a defense, I will explain why I feel being a skinny athlete isn’t a bad thing and should not be criticized. How you look and how you live are two very different things. I run for a living, so that means training at a very high level. Being fit is what my job is all about. It is not about my skinny appearance—that is just a product of the environment in which I operate in. I don’t count my daily caloric intake but am very aware that it is massive compared to the sedentary person. If my intake didn’t match my energy output, I would be constantly losing weight and most likely not be getting my menstrual cycle. A few months ago I wrote a blog about weight and periods as a female athlete in our sport. I shared my personal story and received so much positive feedback. I had several people comment: “What a great role model, every high-school girl should read this.” That was and is my intention: to show young girls who run that it’s not about how fast you run, it’s about doing it while maintaining a healthy female system and positive body image for yourself. Yet on my Women’s Running blog I was the one shamed for being skinny and accused of not being a role model. My definition of healthiness as a runner is preserving your female health by getting a regular period, protecting your bones, and preventing future bone loss and joint deterioration. It’s hard to do as a woman, but it’s something I have strived for my entire career. I’ve gotten my period every month for the last five years with no hormonal help and recently given birth to a nine-pound baby.

We all come in different shapes and sizes. As women, I feel we should be lifting one another up and never tearing each other down. So as we push forward as a gender that’s now more than 55% of the running community, we owe it to ourselves to encourage and support one another. Skinny shaming doesn’t belong in our sport. Judging a person by a picture and using hurtful words towards them is the same as bullying. Realize that demanding images of more “real runner bodies” includes those women that are skinny. I’m a real runner whose body is trained to get every ounce of power, strength and speed in order to do my job and compete with the best in the world. Yeah, I’m skinny, but most importantly I’m healthy. I work hard to be, and I’m damn proud of it.