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She looks fast. She looks fit. She looks healthy. You’ve probably said (or thought) these statements a few times—I know I have. It’s natural to make judgments about someone’s lifestyle or running ability based on her appearance. What we don’t often realize, however, is that what we can see tells a very small fraction of the story.
When I was on the cross-country team in high school, I went over to a friend’s house one day and her mother exclaimed, “You look just like a runner.” She called her husband into the room. “Doesn’t Jessie have the perfect runner’s body?” she asked him.
My friend’s mom was right. I did look like a “runner.” With my spindly legs sticking out of my shorts and my collarbones poking through my T-shirt, my body resembled what many people think of when they picture a long-distance athlete.
What Mrs. Padula didn’t know was that while I may have looked fit, inside I was far from healthy. She couldn’t tell that I had my daily food intake scribbled down on a scrap of paper in the pocket of those shorts. She had no idea that I was 14 years old and still hadn’t gotten my period, or that I had whittled myself down to 82 pounds and desperately wanted more weight to fall off.
Instead of focusing on what running does for my body, I now focus on the joy it brings to my life—like this moment in May when I had the pleasure of pacing my little brother through his very first half marathon.
All of this is to say, don’t judge a runner by her cover. Just as someone can appear to be in shape, when in fact she’s destroying her body, someone can appear to be conventionally out of shape when she’s an athlete to be reckoned with.
That’s why we’re focusing this issue on body positivity in our August issue, available now. In “The Weight Debate,” trainer and coach Rachel Cosgrove makes a flawless argument proving why the number on the scale is completely irrelevant. Our Marathon Maniac columnist opens up about her own issues with eating disorders and how running helps her battle her disease. In “Perfect Fit,” we feature the best new gear for runners with larger frames, a body type the fitness industry too often overlooks.
It’s important to remember that runners come in all sizes—and healthy does too. You look fast when you’re striding down the street at top speed. You look fit when you’re holding a plank with perfect form. You look healthy when you’re making the best decisions for your mind, body and spirit.