For the extended version of this post, visit Kara’s blog.
In today’s society, we seem to be bombarded with information about fitness, weight and body image. Talk about “transformations,” diets, and whatever food or fitness craze might come next. Talk implying that we should be lighter—and therefore “better”—versions of ourselves, as if our self-worth is directly tied to a number on a scale.
Sorry, but that’s bullsh*t. I’m tired of watching women be made to feel not good enough because society says we should look a certain way, maintain a specific weight or fit a designated mold. I’m tired of the quantification and classification of our bodies and the way it seems to be so socially acceptable. So I choose not to accept it, and I encourage you to do the same.
As an elite athlete, weight and body image are prevalent topics in my life. Essentially it is my job to fine-tune and prime my body for performance, so inevitably there’s a lot of “body talk” associated with that—and unfortunately a lot of comparison too. In the context of professional triathlon, at 155 pounds I am undoubtedly a “bigger” athlete. I weigh significantly more than most of my competitors, and race against some athletes who are literally 2/3 my size.
I’ve gotten more comments than I could count with respect to my body and how it relates to my performance. I’ve been told countless times that I “don’t look like a triathlete.” “I can’t believe you can run so fast,” they’ve said. (Because apparently you can only run fast if you’re a certain size…?!). Recently, after seeing me swimming laps at the pool, a woman told a friend of mine: “Wow, I’m surprised to see how big Kara is for being such a good athlete.” And at Xterra World Championships last year, after a career-best performance where I excelled on the hilly mountain bike course, one of my competitors said to me, “I’m shocked that you like the climbs because you are so much bigger.” The list goes on and on…
Related: Creating A Positive Body Image
And how does all of this make me feel? Honestly, not ashamed or embarrassed, but PROUD. Proud that I do like the climbs and the challenges they present; proud that I can run fast; proud that I have climbed the ranks through my sport and achieved success as a professional endurance athlete, despite having the “wrong body type,” or not “looking the part.” And every time someone says to me, “I don’t know how you do that,” I actually smile real big inside. Because yup, I am doing this, and doing it well, in this body—in my body, just as it is supposed to be.
I may not fit the “ideal” for a professional endurance athlete. I will never weigh 130 pounds and have perfectly toned abs and they sometimes coveted “thigh gap,” because that’s just not who I am, and it’s not who I’m meant to be. But I am strong. I am powerful. I am fierce. I am healthy and I am happy. And this strong, powerful and healthy body is capable of some pretty incredible things! Thanks to this body, I’ve been able to take in the world in a way that most could only imagine, through countless adventures and journeys.
I am proud of and extremely grateful for my body, not for the way it looks or doesn’t look or for some completely irrelevant number that it reflects on a scale. I’m grateful for the places it has taken me, for all it enables me to achieve and experience, and most importantly for what it allows me to do day in and day out and the tremendous joy I’ve received as a result.
So I choose not to focus on the number on a scale, whether I’m “bigger” than my competitors, or whether anyone else thinks I have the “right” body for my sport. I choose to focus on the love I have for that sport, and my gratitude for the body that enables me to pursue that passion. And if, like me, you’re also tired of the body “transformation”” talk and are looking for a different perspective, then I encourage you to join me in embracing your body, celebrating your own strengths, and acknowledging and appreciating all of the amazing things your body has enabled you to do, just as it is right now.
Related: Why Any Body Can Be A Runner’s Body