As runners it’s easy to become over concerned with how our bodies look. We worry about what we eat not only because we want to be healthy and perform our best, but also so that we look the part of a runner.
I’m here to tell you that what a runner looks like, is you. Runners come in all shapes and sizes. I have been amazed in many a race at the bodies that are ahead of me. No I’m not amazed at the women who weight 105 lbs. I’m amazed at the women who are taller than me, whose thighs are larger than mine, who don’t have 15% body fat, who are strong large women – women who are faster than me.
I’ve contemplated a thought about weight and speed over the years – every time it comes to mind I feel the same way. If you told me today that for the rest of my life I had to be 10lbs more than my *ideal weight* but this meant that I would go under 3:15 in the marathon – which would I choose? Weigh more and run faster or weigh less and never get any faster than 3:21? I would choose to weigh more and run faster. I have realized (though even I need reminding at times) that my self worth and my times on the clock are not related to how low the number is on the scale.
I’m an avid reader. What I have learned about body fat is not only interesting but should encourage you to find happiness in your current weight, rather than worrying about the 10lbs you think you need to loose, but probably don’t.
Fat is not our enemy. We need a certain level of fat in order for our bodies to function properly. “fat, or adipose tissue, is an essential part of our nerves, spinal cord, brain, and cell membranes” Its interesting to note that “essential fat comprises about 4 percent of body weight, that is 6 fat pounds for a 150-pound man. In comparison, the reference woman has about 12 percent essential fat, that is 15 fat pounds for a 125-pound woman.” Yes I said that for the average woman who weighs 125 pounds, 15 pounds of it is ESSENTIAL. When your body dips to a body fat level that is too low, it either goes into starvation/survival mode, or does not function properly.
The average body fat percentage levels for a male are 13 -17 percent and 20 – 27 percent for women. Think about this – it is healthy and NORMAL for women to be comprised of 1/4 adipose tissue, which is otherwise known as FAT.
I’ve always felt that my thighs were large in comparison to my body.[even I have body issues at times] I however was encouraged to know that “the activity of the enzymes that store fat in women’s thighs and hips is very high compared with the enzyme activity in other fat storage areas in women and to fat storage in the hips and thighs of men” This means if you are among the lucky few women who can boast sinewy thighs, consider yourself lucky. If you are not one of those women, don’t strive for that, it’s just genetically not possible for most of us.
Returning to what I said about your body entering into starvation mode consider this. “extreme amounts of exercise can be interpreted as famine(because of high calorie deficit) *food efficiency* may develop, particularly in women who maintain a chronic energy deficit.” Really think about this if you wonder why your friend can eat twice as much as you, but doesn’t gain any weight. Have you restricted yourself so much that your body has now become *food efficient* – clinging to the few calories that you do eat? Sometimes the best way to loose body fat and/or unwanted weight is to actually eat more and speed up your metabolism. Let your body know that it will always have a steady supply of healthy calories, so there is no need to store as much.
So there you have it. Fat is not always the enemy. Learn to love the body you have, appreciate it for the miles it gives you, the races it helps you complete, whether they be fast or slow. Instead of self loathing, which as we know is very self defeating, believe in yourself and become someone who is self appreciative.
** all quotes taken from Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook – 3rd Edition